By TOM LEA
MADISON - A panel of 10 ESPN Wisconsin writers, hosts and producers submitted a compilation of the 20 most important Wisconsin Badgers football players and coaches — ranked 1-20 — as it relates to success in 2012.
Success, as defined to the panelists, is regarded as winning a Big Ten championship. So, knowing the parameters, which players or coaches need to perform at the highest level in order for the Badgers to win their third-straight Big Ten title?
Through the next few weeks ESPN Wisconsin will countdown the top 20 players or coaches as voted on by the panel.
No. 1 on the list came in with 161 points and 19 players or coaches received votes, but not enough to make the actual list of 20. Those receiving votes can be seen at the bottom of this post.
Without further pomp and circumstance, No. 7 on our list is…
JARED ABBREDERIS, Junior wide receiver (111 points)
It’s somewhat surprising that Abbrederis shows up on our list at No. 7. He is, after all, the only returning wide receiver with vast experience.
In fact, he was the team’s leading receiver as a sophomore, logging more yardage than fourth-round NFL draft pick Nick Toon.
But there are question marks.
Can he emerge as a legitimate No. 1 receiving threat? Can he overcome offseason foot surgery that kept him out of the entirety of spring camp? Can he have a better statistical year than he did a season ago (55 receptions, 933 yards, eight touchdowns)?
According to all accounts, including that of former players and current receivers, it seems as though Abbrederis is capable of succeeding as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
A skeptic, however, would say he doesn’t have the benefits of a bona fide No. 1 receiver to take attention away from him. Toon was clearly a threat and most opposing teams prepared for him as such. With him on one side of the field and Abbrederis on the other, it was apparent any safety help usually drifted toward Toon. It was apparent he demanded the most attention from the opposing secondary. It was apparent that benefitted Abbrederis heavily.
Can Abbrederis command that respect as a junior?
Will he be able to overtake an opponent's top cover corner on a weekly basis? Will he have a capable No. 2 receiver playing a role similar to what he was playing a season ago — a development that would be somewhat surprising considering the lack of progress at the position during spring camp?
So many questions need to be answered, and unfortunately, we didn’t have a spring camp with Abbrederis to fully analyze the potential of the position.
Look, Abbrederis is clearly talented (as a punt returner, too). He’s got a work ethic that is nearly unmatched and a toughness that doesn’t get talked about enough. But this season is going to provide the ultimate test for Abbrederis.
Yes, he had an incredibly productive season a year ago. But will he be able to parlay that into success as the go-to receiving threat?
That probably depends on what kind of improvement the rest of the young stable of receivers (Marquis Mason, Isaiah Williams, Chase Hammond, Jeff Duckworth and Manasseh Garner) make throughout fall camp and regular season.
Until then, Abbrederis’ impact might not come into full focus.