Lucas at Large: Abbrederis continues to learn on the job

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Thumbnail image for Abbrederis_Jared_PUR_10_NA.jpgLeaning on crutches, his fractured left foot in a walking boot, Nick Toon answered some questions from Jared Abbrederis after Tuesday's football practice at the McClain Indoor Facility.

Abbrederis initiated the conversation with Toon, who will be sidelined the entire spring with the injury. "Nick has a lot of experience and I wanted to get some of his wisdom,'' he said.

In particular, Abbrederis had run a corner route on which the pass was intercepted. While it's always easy to point to the quarterback on turnovers, the receiver also has to be accountable.

"We were talking about what I could do better,'' said Abbrederis. "And there was some small stuff about getting off the line on a DB when he's pressing. I just wanted to get some of his thoughts.''

Toon, a fifth-year senior, will be the UW's leading returning pass catcher when he returns. Until then, Abbrederis, who will be going into his redshirt sophomore year, holds that distinction.

In 2010, Abbrederis was one of the more pleasant developments on offense for the Badgers. He played in 13 games and finished with 20 catches for 289 yards (14.4) and three touchdowns.

"The journey has been crazy so far,'' he admitted.

True enough given that Abbrederis was a walk-on from Wautoma High School, where he excelled as a dual-threat quarterback, a defensive back and a two-time state champion in the high hurdles.

People started looking for Wautoma on the map -- it's about 70 miles north of Madison -- after the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Abbrederis kept getting open behind UW's defensive backs last spring.

In some ways, Abbrederis helped put Wautoma on the map as a prep athlete while leading the Hornets to the WIAA Division 4 state title in football and the Division 2 state championship in track.

His competitive instincts were also on display as a high school wrestler; not often associated with a skill position. "It demands the strongest mental toughness,'' he said. "And you learn not to quit.''

Competiting in the 160-pound weight class, Abbrederis won 30 matches during his junior year. He injured his groin near the end of the season and attempted to keep wrestling through the injury.

But he was advised to stop or risk jeopardizing his track season. He did so reluctantly. "The kid I pinned in the conference meet made it all the way to the sectionals,'' he said with a sigh.

His wrestling background has definitely impacted his mentality. "You have to do it yourself,'' he said. "There's no one else who's going to do it for you (on the mat). You put yourself on the line.''

That's what he has done on the Badger football team.

He has put himself in a position to be a contributor.

"Last spring, I wasn't even part of the equation,'' he said. "I had to do something in order to get an opportunity in the fall. Now, I have to keep doing it -- I just have to attack everything.''

Timing can be everything, too. While trying to make an impression last spring, Abbrederis worked almost exclusively with the UW's backup quarterback, who was then Jon Budmayr.

With the departure of Scott Tolzien, a two-year starter, Budmayr has taken over the offense. Now also subtract Lance Kendricks, Isaac Anderson, David Gilreath and Toon -- for now -- from the rotation.

"We have a young receiving corps and that makes it hard on all of our quarterbacks because not every route is perfect,'' Abbrederis said. "We just have to keep getting better.''

This is why he went out of his way to visit with Toon after practice about that corner route. In some respects, the journey is bound to get even crazier because of his inexperience.

"I've gotten a lot better,'' Abbrederis said, "but I've got a long ways to go.''

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I knew last year that Jared would be a very pleasant
surprise for Badger fans. This year he will be a much bigger contributor.