One of the most influential players in Saturday’s game between Wisconsin and Wofford never touched the ball. In fact, he did not even touch the field during the game.
With the Terriers’ unique “wingbone” offense, a significant portion of the Badgers’ preparations for the FCS opponent was spent learning the Wofford offense and practicing against the UW scout team version of their attack. Behind center for the scout team was freshman Jared Abbrederis, a Wautoma, Wis., native.
The first year receiver was chosen to emulate Wofford quarterback Mitch Allen in part because of his speed and the fact that he ran a similar offense at Wautoma High.
“I was a quarterback in high school, but when I came here they put me at wide receiver,” Abbrederis said. “Whenever we get a good option running team or something I go in at QB for the scout team, especially on running plays.”
Not only was Abbrederis familiar with the system run by Wofford, but he had also experienced quite a bit of success with it, winning a Division IV state championship as a senior. He also received first-team all-state honors at quarterback from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
So when he was asked to take on the position of quarterback for the UW scout team after switching to receiver in camp, it did not take long for him to get used to the role.
“There’s different plays, but for the most part, you read the defensive end and either run or hand it off,” Abbrederis said. “So I didn’t have to do much studying. The coaches do a great job of writing out the plays for us so we can just read the card and do what it says.”
What did take some adjustment, however, were the demands of the position.
“Obviously, it gets tough at times going rep after rep, but it’s been good,” Abbrederis said. “You know you’re making yourself better and you’re making the starters better and the two-deep, so I take pride in that and I do my best in practice everyday.”
Judging by the performance of the Wisconsin defense, he appears to have done a good job.
The Badgers allowed just 259 total yards to the Terriers after giving up more than 400 each to Fresno State and Northern Illinois. And though Wofford attempted just seven passes in the game, the Wisconsin D allowed them to complete only three of the seven for 45 yards.
In the running game, UW gave up 214 yards, which was 71 fewer than the Terriers averaged per game entering the contest.
And no player on the Wisconsin sideline could have been much more excited to see the defense succeed than Abbrederis.
“I knew what plays the offense was going to run. … I could see a guy go in motion and I’m like, ‘Oh, here he comes,'” Abbrederis said. “It was pretty neat, and to just see how they played so well, you knew that the work you did during the week paid off. So that was good to see.”
For his efforts, Abbrederis received high praise from head coach Bret Bielema and staff, including being named offensive scout team player of the week.
“I can’t say enough about Jared Abbrederis,” Bielema said in Monday’s press conference. “To run last week as an offensive scout against our defensive players really put us in a position to [win].”
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Abbrederis’ role as scout team quarterback is the lack of time he spends with the offense and Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Wisconsin.
Although he works with the wide receivers during the skills portions of practice, Abbrederis works against the first team defense on the scout team, while Chryst and the rest of the offensive two-deep faces the scout team defense.
“You know, I don’t see him do it,” Chryst said. “I know he did a good job — he’s a good kid who works hard. When we exchange, I see more of the young defensive players, but we don’t do anything with the offensive guys once the season gets going.”
Abbrederis does not mind getting less time with the offense if it means helping the team as a whole. That attitude is a major reason behind the former quarterback walking on to the team in a receiver role after spending his high school years behind center.
He does note, however, he has some previous experience lining up outside.
“I like playing wide receiver just because you’re one-on-one with a DB,” Abbrederis said. “I played wide receiver up to about my eighth grade year and then I switched to quarterback because we needed one. There’s still some little stuff I can work on to improve my skills.”
It’s also Abbrederis’ versatility and willingness to adapt to the team’s needs that has earned him a prominent, though perhaps under appreciated role within the Wisconsin scheme.
One player who knows the importance of the scout team, specifically the scout quarterback, is current No. 2 quarterback Curt Phillips. During his redshirt season last year, Phillips often ran the Badgers’ scout team, earning player of the week honors twice as well as being named Wisconsin’s player of the year for the offensive scout team.
“When those guys give us good looks in practice, that just sets you up to be successful on Saturday,” Phillips said. “It’s also a great advantage for those guys. Last year, whenever I got to do scout team, it was huge for me just to get the opportunity to adjust to the speed of the game playing against a great defense.”
And though they may only play the same position during the scout team portion of practice, Abbrederis sees Phillips as an example for how he should work to improve.
“Just looking at Curt and seeing how hard he works, that just shows me that I need to work just as hard,” he said. “Even if I’m at wide receiver or wherever I play, I just do my best.”