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Badger Bits: Wisconsin is Tight End U

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Jacob Pedersen and Jake Byrne could be the next Badger tight ends to make the leap to the NFL
Jacob Pedersen and Jake Byrne could be the next Badger tight ends to make the leap to the NFL

Wisconsin's reputation as a producer of NFL linemen is well known. All three graduating seniors on the line last season were drafted by NFL teams and were opening day starters. Coach Bret Bielema even joked a few weeks ago about NFL scouts telling him Wisconsin's linemen are better than the ones on their own teams. 

Even though the Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi types are what Wisconsin is famous for producing, UW has also become an top source of pro caliber tight end talent over the course of the last decade. The last four starting Wisconsin H-backs -- Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks -- are all on NFL rosters. Daniels was on his way to becoming an elite tight end before tearing an ACL last November. Kendricks looks like he'll be a featured piece of the St. Louis Rams' offense once he figures out the nuances of the pro game, and Beckum and Graham are both in back-up roles.

As for the current Badgers, the story is the same: redshirt sophomore Jacob Pedersen is having a breakout year and looks like he could be every bit as good as the players listed above. Senior Jake Byrne won't wow anyone with his pass catching ability, but he's an elite blocker who could catch on with a run-first NFL offense in a Brandon Manumaleuna-type role. Behind those two are redshirt sophomore Brian Wozniak and freshman Sam Arnesonwho the coaches seem excited about

If Wisconsin continues to field future NFL players on the offensive line and at tight end, it would go a long way towards continuing its current streak of offensive success.

Here's an incredible stat: Wisconsin running backs have not fumbled the football in over a year, a span that includes 642 total touches. Also, the Badgers have only turned the ball over once this season. Incredible

Tom Mulhern wrote a really informative piece about how the Badgers are using Chris Borland differently this season than they have in the past. He's been playing some defensive end on passing downs to get more pass-rush opportunities.

The Badgers are one of only five FBS teams to average at least 230 rushing and receiving yards this season.

We've talked about this before, but Devin Smith will likely get a fifth year of eligibility and another chance to start at cornerback for the Badgers in 2012. He seems to have a positive attitude about the situation.

Saturday's opponent, South Dakota, uses a lot of different packages on both offense and defense. The Badgers have taken extra preparations to make sure they're ready for anything.

If anyone cares, Dave Heller's weekly list of predictions for Saturday's game from around the college football world is up. No one likes the Coyotes in this one, for some reason.

Preseason basketball All-American lists are right around the corner. The folks at Blue Ribbon Yearbook already released their picks, and Jordan Taylor is a first-team selection.

Wisconsin's hockey team will begin its season starting a goaltender with no college experience. Andy Baggot has more on the three goalies vying for playing time.