By TOM LEA
MADISON – Judging by the way numerous players received punts and kicks when fall camp practices were open to reporters, it’s apparent Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was serious when he talked about potentially taking junior Jared Abbrederis off kick and punt return units.
Bielema said he wanted to give the much-used receiver a bit of a break throughout the course of a game, especially considering he’s the top receiver on a team that features more than enough inexperienced players at that position. His importance at his position may trump his explosiveness as a return man.
Now, just over a week away from the start of the 2012 season, it looks as though Abbrederis is going to start the season as the team’s No. 1 kick and punt returner on the roster.
“As the game flows or if we feel something during the course of the game that says, ‘Hey, let’s put another guy in there,’ (we will change),” Bielema inferred. “The first game you just don’t know enough. Abby really wants to be back there on both.”
Abbrederis led all Big Ten punt returners and finished third nationally with a 15.75 yards per return average during his 20 punt returns a season ago. And his 24.6 yards per return helped him rank in the top 50 nationally.
In addition to his productivity a season ago, Abbrederis is really the only return man on the UW roster with any sort of continued experience in that role. That’s something that will factor Bielema’s decision when it comes to critical moments in a game and something that is stunting the opportunities other players may receive.
“I think the opportunity to have him and James (White back there),” Bielema said. “Melvin (Gordon) has looked really good on kick returns. Our next best punt returner is probably Kenzel Doe. I’d like to see him get some work here in the non-conference season.
“I think a lot of positives will come out of it.”
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