- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.
This week's selection: Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis
Saturday assignment: home vs. UTEP, noon ET, ESPN2
Running back Montee Ball is Wisconsin's most decorated offensive player, but Abbrederis might be the Badgers' most important piece as they try to jump-start a shockingly dormant unit. Wisconsin ranks 116th nationally in total offense after the first three games, and the Badgers have had just four passing plays stretch longer than 20 yards. Abbrederis has been on the receiving end of two of them, including a touchdown, despite missing the past game and a half with a concussion suffered in a Sept. 8 loss to Oregon State. He was cleared to return Tuesday and should start against the Miners.
The former walk-on is the Big Ten's top returning receiver from 2011, when he recorded 55 receptions for a team-high 933 yards and eight touchdowns, including 16 catches of 20 yards or longer. He also emerged as a standout punt returner, ranking third nationally in average runback (15.8 ypr) with a touchdown in 20 attempts. His return this week is even more significant as the Badgers will turn to Joel Stave as their starting quarterback after benching Danny O'Brien in the second half of last Saturday's win against Utah State. Perhaps the walk-on connection -- both Abbrederis and Stave are former walk-ons -- can spark Wisconsin's offense in its final non-league tuneup.