From being a high school wide receiver, quarterback and free safety, to scout team quarterback, and finally back to wide receiver at the Division I level, Jared Abbrederis hasn’t followed the most conventional path to becoming a member of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Yet, the road less traveled is shaping up to be the road most rewarding for the redshirt freshman wide receiver. After his team-leading five receptions Saturday afternoon against San Jose State, complemented by very strong spring and fall camps, Abbrederis has become the latest Badger of the moment.
“I was really impressed, and I know a lot of the other guys were,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said of Abbrederis’ 58-yard performance. “Just the work ethic that he has and his attention to detail. It was definitely exciting to see a guy like that and see all his hard work and just confidence going into that game pay-off.”
After finishing his high school career at Wautoma High School as a Wisconsin Football Coaches Association first-team all-state quarterback and first-team all-conference defensive back while also dabbling in track and wrestling, Abbrederis has proven himself to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Serving as the scout team quarterback while redshirting last year, Abbrederis first played a significant role in the week leading up to Wisconsin’s 44-14 trouncing of Wofford last September. Knowing that the Terriers typically run out of a tricky wingbone formation, the Badgers put it on Abbrederis to give their defense a strong look at what to expect. After the game, Abbrederis earned the esteemed title of offensive scout team player of the week — but also displayed his intense work ethic.
“We always look for guys that are determined and want more from themselves first,” wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander said. “That’s one of the biggest things. He has a lot of inner drive, and he does all the little things to try to improve his game and to be a part of this team.”
With the Badgers’ top receiver, Nick Toon, sitting out with turf toe, Abbrederis knew he had a solid chance to see some action Saturday. After UW’s other starting receiver David Gilreath was knocked out of the game with a brutal concussion, Abbrederis’ solid chance turned into a giant opportunity, and the youngster failed to disappoint. In response, Abbrederis earned a more impressive award nearly one year later — offensive player of the week.
“It’s really a testament to Jared, just like I said, in the summer he was out here more than anyone else, just throwing and catching,” Tolzien said. “It’s the attention to detail that really made a difference and really raised the confidence level of everyone else, just knowing that he knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to make the plays.”
For Abbrederis, the transition back to wide receiver was clearly aided by his time spent manning his high school offense. In mainly an option-oriented scheme, Abbrederis threw the ball 10 to 15 times a game and racked up nearly 1,500 yards his senior year. Wautoma won the WIAA Division IV state championship that year, and Abbrederis won’t soon forget the lessons learned that season.
“It helps me because at quarterback, I had to know every position,” Abbrederis said. “So at wide receiver, I still have to kind of learn every position and know where the other wide receivers are gonna be so I know what routes, if I got to go high or go low.”
As proven in his time at three different high school positions, Abbrederis possesses all the talent and raw skill to be successful at the college level. With his added versatility as a punt returner, Abbrederis has proven he knows how to make the best of any given opportunity. Standing at 6-foot-2, the freshman makes the most out of his lanky 185-pound frame by contributing as a solid blocker downfield.
“I love contact, so I like getting in there,” Abbrederis said. “It’s different just because sometimes the DB’s will move left and right, try to juke you, so I got to work on that part of my game, getting connected to the DB and staying on him. I don’t shy away from contact at all.”
Despite his prior success and proven versatility, Abbrederis has displayed an impressively even-keel attitude during his brief time in the Madison spotlight. Likely stemming from his scout team days, Abbrederis has made a point of making preparation a distinct feature of his approach to the game.
“I just know that he really has a great work ethic; he really does want to know all the details,” Tolzien said. “You really see how those pay off on gamedays, and it’s really cool that he understands the details, even being a youngster. He’s not just focused on what route he has, but exactly what depth it is, how the route changes versus a different coverage. He’s really showed a lot of maturity, and it’s going to be fun to watch in the next few years.”
Before looking years into the future, though, there’s still plenty to assess in 2010. Arizona State visits Camp Randall this Saturday, providing the toughest competition for Wisconsin so far this season. Toon and Gilreath are both unknowns for this weekend, and in two weeks, Big Ten play starts. That’s really when it counts, and that’s really when it will be time to see what kind of player Abbrederis can be.
“He sits in our room and the guys try to heckle him, give him a hard time, but he is one of the guys,” Alexander said. “His confidence is high, or he wouldn’t be in the position that he’s in. He’s not just an overachiever or just a hard worker; he’s got some skill and talent.”