MADISON, Wis. -- When it comes to mass-producing players, the Badgers are generally known for two positions: the offensive line and tight end. And when it comes to tight ends, the Badgers have a bit of a streak going. A Wisconsin tight end has been selected in the NFL draft in each of the last three years, and in four of the last six.
So to say redshirt sophomore Jacob Pedersen has some big shoes to fill is probably an understatement.
However, Pedersen is starting to make a name for himself on the field. After getting some playing time in big games last year, he's now the second on the team with eight receptions for 100 yards, to go along with a team-leading three receiving touchdowns. After practice Tuesday, Pedersen attributed some of his early success to reps he got last year.
"Every rep you take, it's going to make you better," Pedersen said. "It kind of helps you know what to expect - you know what you're going to see from an opposing defense."
Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph was impressed with Pedersen after Saturday's 35-0 win over Oregon State, where Pedersen caught two touchdowns and piled up 80 yards.
"I think he did some very positive things," Rudolph said. "I thought he made plays in the passing game that were there to make, and its good to see he's able to capitalize on them."
"I said 'If this is where we're at in the second game, and we can grow from this point, we're going to have a chance to be pretty good."
Quarterback Russell Wilson said he and Pedersen already have a good amount of chemistry, despite Wilson only being on campus for a few months before the season.
"I definitely feel comfortable with Jacob," Wilson said. "He works extremely hard every single day, he's a guy that always wants the ball, and that's a positive thing."
However, Rudolph stressed there are always things Pedersen can improve on.
"There are some details in the run game, there were some details in the passing game on some of the routes that didn't show up, but I like where he's going for a redshirt sophomore," Rudolph said. "He's doing really well. The scoreboard doesn't care if you're a redshirt freshman or a fifth-year senior- if you're out there you'd better execute."
"There've been some great tight ends in this program- will he be as good as those guys? I don't know. I like where he's at right now. I'm excited about his future."
The Badgers will play their first game away from Camp Randall this Saturday, when they will play the Northern Illinois Huskies in Chicago. While the setting may be different, Wilson isn't worried about feeling out of place in the Windy City.
"I'm definitely excited about it. It's going to be a great experience," Wilson said. "Soldier Field is one of the oldest fields there is, so it should be a great experience."
"But at the same time, you know, you relax and just realize that 100 yards is 100 yards, and it's a football game."
Running back Montee Ball looks at the road trip as a good opportunity to build up team chemistry before the start of Big Ten play.
"It builds our chemistry," Ball said. "You really get to know your players well."
News and Notes
-- Ball and Wilson both said they're not concerned about the infamous Soldier Field turf, which is widely regarded as the worst playing surface in the NFL.
"I'm not really worried about it," Wilson said. "We've just got to be ready to play and no matter what the surface is, we'll be ready to go."
Ball mentioned the Soldier Field turf won't change his mindset for Saturday.
"[The field is still] 100 yards," Ball said.
-- Wilson stressed that the Badgers won't be changing anything big when they line up against their former defensive coordinator.
"We haven't adjusted anything at all. We know that he knows us and we know him," Wilson said. "That's the cool part about it, but at the same time, it's a football game so we have to make sure we're prepared."
-- Ball also said he is excited to see NIU head coach Dave Doeren again. Doeren recruited Ball for Wisconsin while serving as the team's defensive coordinator from 2008 to 2010.