Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 11/6/12
MADISON, Wis. When wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni began his first season at Wisconsin, he had no idea how the number of catches would be split among his players. Yes, standout Jared Abbrederis would garner the bulk of the throws. Beyond that, it was anybody's guess. "I knew collectively they were going to be the No. 2 receiver," Azzanni said. "I really didn't have one guy stepping up. They all do different things well. Collectively, they were going to be the second guy." Through nine games, Azzanni's premonition has proven to be spot on. Abbrederis has caught 37 passes for 675 yards and five touchdowns, emerging as one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten. The rest of the team's wide receivers Jordan Fredrick, Kenzel Doe, Jeff Duckworth, Chase Hammond and Reggie Love have caught a combined total of 35 passes for 346 yards and no touchdowns. "We always want to do better than what we've done," Fredrick said. "Obviously we could. There's some plays that we've left behind. The plays that Abby has made, he deserves everything he's gotten. No one is complaining about not getting enough. But we always want more." A year ago, Wisconsin's offense hummed behind quarterback Russell Wilson, star running back Montee Ball and two talented wideouts Abbrederis and Nick Toon. But Wilson and Toon are now in the NFL, and the team has struggled to find a comparable route runner to Toon, let alone a quarterback with the charisma, leadership and ability of Wilson. At some programs, the overall lack of production from the rest of the receiving corps would be cause for alarm. And while coaches would love for more playmakers to develop this season, the Badgers' pro-style offense also helps to mask the wide receivers' deficiencies. Tight ends Jacob Pedersen, Brian Wozniak and Sam Arneson have accounted for 28 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Fullback Derek Watt has seven catches for 65 yards. And the running backs have amassed 15 catches for 178 yards with a touchdown. Azzanni has been involved with some high-scoring offenses at other schools, including as a graduate assistant under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and later a wide receivers coach under Meyer at Florida. But he understands the philosophy at Wisconsin is different, which means reserve wide receivers get even fewer throws. This season, Wisconsin ranks 105th out of 124 FBS teams in yards passing per game at 180.8. The team also has passed on just 35.2 percent of its offensive plays. For comparison's sake, Wisconsin's opponents have passed on 58.2 percent of their offensive plays against the Badgers. Wisconsin ranks 112th out of 124 teams in pass-to-run ratio. "Are we going to go out there and be like some of the offenses I've been a part of in the past and have four and five receivers out there, throwing it 58 times?" Azzanni said. "No, we're built for what we do here. We know the tight ends are going to get a lot of catches. That's why we have splash plays out there. We throw the deep play-action, and that's what we do and we know that. We're built for that. "When the tight ends and backs are having a good day, that takes some heat off of us." If there is one player to have emerged, even slightly, from the rest of the wide receiver pack, it appears to be Fredrick, a redshirt freshman from Madison. He has become a reliable, if underused, No. 2 wide receiver to Abbrederis, catching 11 passes for 138 yards. He is also the only other receiver with more than 90 receiving yards. "I think he's continued to let us see that he can grow," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "He's going to have certain limitations, but I think he knows those, and as coaches we do. He's caught the ball extremely well." Not surprisingly, Fredrick said he attempted to model parts of his game after Abbrederis, the unquestioned leader of the wide receivers. "The biggest thing I try to keep up with is his effort," Fredrick said. "He gives so many reps during the week and in games and he still gives 100 percent every play, which is amazing. When guys get that good and make the plays he does, sometimes it gets to their head. Abby's not a guy that's done that. When you're in there with Abby, you know you've got to keep up. It's pretty obvious when you're not giving all the effort that he does." Azzanni described the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fredrick as the type of blue-collar player who understands what he can and can't do on the field. He doesn't out-run cornerbacks the same way that Abbrederis does, but he runs smart routes and can use his physicality to handle tough throws in coverage. The key for Wisconsin is making sure it doesn't become too predictable in the passing game. Throwing to four different receivers, even if they make up one collective second option, is better than the alternative. "As coaches, we've got to put them in the right spot to be successful," Azzanni said. "We put different pieces to the puzzle to do certain things in the offense. Luckily, we have a guy like Abby that can do a lot of those things. The other guys have to fill in when they can and do different things well." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Bubba Watson's caddie owns heckler at PGA Championship

NFL denies sending Donald Trump letter about schedule

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker