MADISON -- Although Badgers Nation held its breath Saturday afternoon when wide receiver Jared Abbrederis exited in the first quarter of Saturday's 35-6 blowout win against Northwestern with a head injury, the stud wide receiver practiced Tuesday afternoon.
Outfitted with a green "no contact" jersey, he participated in team drills for the open media portion of practice. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig believes the former walk-on from Wautoma will be with the team Saturday night as the Badgers face Illinois in Champaign.
"Jared's running around good, and all indications are that he'll be with us on Saturday," Ludwig said.
Offense clicking, but coaches want more
Wisconsin amassed 527 total yards against a Northwestern defense opportunistic in turnovers but now ranked 100th in the nation in total defense. Even as Wisconsin is ranked ninth nationally in total offense and fifth in rushing, Ludwig sees the offense progressing but needing to take further steps in its evolution.
"We need to improve on every aspect of offensive play," Ludwig said. "We've got to run the ball with more efficiency, we've got to complete more passes, protect the passer better, so every area needs to improve, and that's what practice and that's what this season's all about."
Offensive line coach T.J. Woods has witnessed progression of his line in the first six games of the year, even with the juggling required due to injuries early in the season with redshirt freshman Dan Voltz and junior Dallas Lewallen, amongst other changes. Wisconsin rebounded from a subpar rushing effort at Ohio State with a 286-yard performance on the ground against Northwestern, but Woods knows there are always teaching lessons in the film room.
"I think they're getting better every week, and that's the goal," he said.
"I think there's things we need to improve on, and things we need to learn from, and we continue to progress and come out here and practice the right way and get better."
Though he's still demanding more consistency and efficiency out of his offense, Ludwig noted quarterback Joel Stave's impressive play in the red zone. Overall, Stave is currently fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards at 216.2 yards per game, and fifth in the conference in passing efficiency at 146.7.
"He's doing a nice job," Ludwig said. "He's getting better every week. There's some things obviously we need to improve on in all areas of offensive play and quarterback play, but he's working real hard at it and I'm encouraged with the red zone production right now."
Woods comfortable with offensive line depth, contributions
Despite Voltz's hamstring issue at the beginning of fall camp, among other ailments for the traditionally deep offensive line, Woods likes what he sees with the seven linemen seeing consistent time in the Badgers' offense. With many outside the team questioning the depth of the line at the beginning of the season, Woods feels comfortable with what he has but continues to push for improvements amongst his players.
"I think that there's a couple of the twos that need to step up and continue to improve, and I see that," Woods said. "I see that they're working on their craft, but I feel really good about the top seven guys that have played significant time this year, and I don't think we miss a beat when those guys are in."
Lewallen made his return as the starting center Saturday after missing the Ohio State game. Lewallen said after practice Tuesday his injured ankle feels good and he was not encountering any ill effects. Woods feels the line responds well to both Voltz and Lewallen as their center, but complemented the latter on his play against the Wildcats.
"I think Dallas played well," Woods said." He knocked off some rust a little bit and got back in the mix, and I was pleased with his performance."
Facing an Illini defense ranked 102nd in the nation in total defense, Lewallen and his teammates on the line reiterated their focus on their opponent at hand.
"Our mindset is to approach it like any other game,"Lewallen said. Prepare for this team just like we would any other team. Be consistent in preparation. Watching film, practice reps and everything else."
New wrinkles on display
Saturday afternoon, a couple of new personnel groupings popped out to many who watched the game. A wildcat formation with running back James White taking the snap as the quarterback and running back Corey Clement split out wide in a fly sweep feel looked promising, but the play was not meant to be, as a false start penalty negated the new look after the snap.
Asked whether he'll implement it this week, Ludwig didn't reveal much, but also didn't rule out it being used Saturday.
"Well it did not make a very glamorous debut, so we'll just see how that develops for us," Ludwig said.
Asked what percentage of the playbook he's installed so far in his first year as offensive coordinator, Ludwig responded by stating the Badgers' offense is based on the personnel and the system right now.
"We're just trying to put the guys in a position to play to the best of their abilities and highlight their skills, so it's continuing to evolve," he said.
One other formation seen Saturday was a goal line look with two offensive linemen, Ray Ball and Zac Matthias, in the backfield as lead blockers in a power I-formation look. Will fans see one of those two carry the rock that close to the goal line? While Ludwig simply stated that time will tell, Woods had a more blunt response.
"No, no, never, never, no, no," Woods cracked.
"Hopefully they can play their role and add some physicality to some of those goal line sets."
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- Classic Xs and Os: David Gilreath's 2010 kick return vs. Ohio State
- Let's Rate Things: With the Wisconsin Badgers
- Wisconsin athletic department responds to Kohl Center banner fiasco
- Wisconsin hockey recruiting: Badgers add 6'6" center Matt Ustaski for 2014-15
- Kielbasa Kings Episode 15: Northwestern vs. Wisconsin recap
- VIDEO: Bo Ryan Jumps Around at Camp Randall Stadium