By TOM LEA
MADISON – Whether junior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis plays Saturday night against Utah State remains to be seen, according to head coach Bret Bielema.
Abbrederis, following a brutal hit in the second quarter of last week’s loss at Oregon State, has been dealing with a chest contusion and concussion-like symptoms.
“He is still up in the air,” Bielema said Thursday night. “He was out there (Thursday). We didn’t put him in any live contact stuff. At first they said no. Now it’s coming more and more. He was in meetings (Wednesday). I didn’t expect him there and he was out in practice today.”
Should Abbrederis miss time, Bielema said junior Jeff Duckworth and freshman Jordan Fredrick would start at the wide receiver position.
“A lot of times with guys with concussions we kind of just rest them,” Bielema said. “Not even get them involved with meetings. We just let them go home, sit and sleep. That brings them back fast.
“Knowing Abby, I just have a hunch he’s probably going to find his way out there.”
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni isn’t necessarily willing or prepared to rest on a hunch, at least as it regards his position and the fact the players poised to fill in for Abbrederis are very young and somewhat inexperienced.
He’s preparing to attack Utah State’s secondary with the impression his top receiving threat won’t be able to play.
“You have to have a plan if one of your guys go down,” Azzanni said. “I think we do. Those yards will come somewhere. It’s not all going to be on one guy. I’m not going to ask Jeff Duckworth to go be Jared Abbrederis this week, or A.J. (Jordan) or Jordan (Fredrick) or Chase (Hammond) or (Kenzel) Doe. There just aren’t many Abby’s.
“We’re going to distribute it and get those yards back with a lot of different guys, backs, tight ends, a wide out here or there.”
UW should get some relief with the return of sophomore Chase Hammond, a player Bielema said could conceivably stretch the field with his speed and size.
“He’s cleared,” Bielema said. “He’s not quite ready for 70 plays, but he could be for (ready) for 20-30 plays.”
ARNESON BACK IN PRACTICE:
Sophomore tight end Sam Arneson didn’t make the trip to Corvallis last weekend as he recovered from a minor knee injury. Bielema expects him to play this weekend inside Camp Randall, though.
“Arneson did practice,” Bielema said. “He caught a couple really nice balls today so he should be involved.”
BETTER FOCUS IN PRACTICE:
Bret Bielema has made it clear throughout the week that the one of the main reasons he decided to fire Mike Markuson just two games into UW’s season was to ‘change the room, change the dynamics.’
Now, with a full week of practice in the books, it seems as though the UW players have adhered to the change with a different pace in practice.
“That definitely happened,” Bielema said. “I think the kids were really juiced. I was a little concerned Wednesday watching the film (that) we could spend it all (energy) on Tuesday. There was just so much energy and enthusiasm.
“They really (had) tempo pretty good this week. I think the crisper weather helped too.”
Bielema on the energy of his players:
“Sunday there were some things said. Individually, players had their own discussions about what needed to happen. I think that’s been addressed and hopefully we see that. Night games in Camp Randall have been pretty exciting. If they can’t get up for that one we have real problems.”