As long as I can remember Wisconsin football, the Badgers have always been a run-first team. But the thing of it is, they always had a pass-catching threat they could go to. Often, it was a dude named Lee. But you had your Chris Chambers and your Nick Toon, as well. You always had someone you could go to when you needed those extra yards and weren't in the mood for dusting.
Jared Abbrederis belongs in that class of receiver. After his first 18 quarters of 2012, he was on pace for a big season. He had 27 grabs for 516 yards and 5 scores. He was there for the brutally efficient start that Danny O'Brien had in Week 1. And when he got healthy and Joel Stave was throwing passes? They connected deep in the most delightful of ways.
There was a problem, though. Teams adjusted. The quarterback situation changed again. Those 18 quarters? He didn't come close to matching them in the final eight games. He had 22 grabs and 323 yards. Again, there wasn't going to be as much of a passing threat in the Curt Phillips regime, but that's a stark decline.
The second receiving option was a major help for the Badgers in their previous two iterations that made a run for the Roses. Abbrederis was there to keep defenses off of Toon. And David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson were huge in 2010, especially considering Toon's injury. Sure, the Badgers have also had a tight end or three to help alleviate the pass catching duties along the way.
But the Badgers didn't even have much of that last year.
So what happened? Inexperience played a factor. With Manasseh Garner's transfer to Pitt and Jeff Duckworth building a vacation home in ol' Bret's doghouse, redshirt freshman Jordan Frederick and sophomore Kenzel Doe were forced to step up and play more downs than they may have been ready for.
Spring Depth Chart
WR1) Jared Abbrederis -- 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, RS Senior
1-2) Reggie Love -- 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Sophomore
1-3) A.J. Jordan -- 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, RS Sophomore
1-4) Jeff Duckworth -- 6-foot-0, 206 pounds, RS Senior
WR2) Jordan Frederick -- 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, RS Sophomore
2-2) Kenzel Doe -- 5-foot-8, 171 pounds, Junior
2-3) Marquis Mason -- 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, RS Junior
2-4) Chase Hammond -- 6-foot-5, 209 pounds, RS Junior
If Abbrederis declared for the draft, this would be a screaming red klaxon of a question mark. But he didn't. So we have a professional level of talent starting at one side of the field. Which is nice.
On the other side of the field? There's hope. Eight of Duckworth's 9 catches were huge. Logic dictates that Kenzel Doe and Jordan Frederick will both have more success this season based solely on the fact they saw the field a lot last season. It's not unreasonable that the game is going to slow down for them.
There are also tall and rangy receivers that are impressing in spring ball. Spencer talked about how exactly Reggie Love is impressing in spring. And could this be the year Marquis Mason crashes the starting line-up and wins almost every jump ball? If spring ball is any indication, it just might be. At least, it was before a knee injury. This leaves an opening for A.J. Jordan to come in and steal the job going into fall camp.
There isn't a leadpipe lock as a second receiver. But there's enough intrigue between all the non-Abbrederis piecesthat it's not a pie in the sky dream to consider the fact that someone emerges. And that someone could very well be a tall person who can make highlight-reel plays.
But then again, we're still in a world where no one has been so impressive in spring ball that we've found ourselves with "the guy." The questions remain. Who's going to be across from Abbredreris? Who's going to be the No. 3 receiver?
I mean, Doe has the quickness to be a weapon in space. The Wes Welker comparisons are obvious. But Doe didn't come close to Welker's 50 catches as a sophomore at Texas Tech. Frederick's big and rangy, but he likely lacks the explosiveness that Gary Andersen wants from his skill players, therefore his spot's still open. Love has one career catch and has spent time with Mason on the injured list. Chase Hammond's injury troubles have struck again.
In fact, I would say that considering the early usage of a "13" (one-back, three-tight end) package, we're looking at a scenario where a Jazz Peavy or a Rob Wheelwright could come in and get a job straight away with a good fall camp. Because we're closing in on the spring game. And a question that plagued 2012 still doesn't have an answer as of yet.
Just, while intriguing, a whole lot of ifs.