The Wisconsin Badgers are going through some changes under new head coach Gary Andersen. While the most striking differences next season will come on the defensive side of the ball as the Badgers transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, there are plenty of new wrinkles coming to the offense as well. Specifically, Andersen is going to be utilizing the tight ends more in 2013 with two and three tight end sets in the works as they get lined up all over the field to set up mismatches on both running and passing plays. Nobody will benefit more from that change in offensive philosophy than senior tight end Jacob Pedersen.
Pedersen was already a major part of the offense in 2012, finishing second on the team with 27 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns. He was one of only two Badgers’ receivers to catch more than 20 passes of have more than 200 yards receiving. Most of his damage came lined up on the end of the line, though. Next season, the 6-foot-4, 237-pound will be lined up in a variety of positions as he becomes even more important to the passing game.
And he won’t be alone. Andersen is also leaning on fifth year senior Brian Wozniak and junior Sam Arneson, along with transfer Brock DeCicco, to make contributions at tight end, especially when the Badgers go to a multiple tight end look. The group is athletic enough to run good routes and catch the ball effectively, but physical and strong when asked to get down into the trenches and block for the running game. Wisconsin will call on their tight ends to do it all in 2013 because they will need them to do it all.
The Badgers’ passing attack has generally lacked a great deal of playmaking ability in recent years, particularly from the wide receiver position. Next year, Andersen will look for senior Jared Abbrederis to be the No. 1 receiver, which he will be both because of his ability to catch passes and the lack of another option at wide receiver. While the Badgers continue to look for a consistent presence in the wide receiver depth chart, they will lean on their talented crop of tight ends to pick up the slack.
There is change in the air in Madison this spring, and how effective those changes ultimately are in 2013 rests on the shoulders of the tight ends and Jacob Pedersen in particular. Will the increased work load lead to success for the Badgers in 2013?