MADISON - Bret Bielema
turned heads this past spring when he told reporters Wisconsin
redshirt sophomore Jacob Pedersen
had the chance to become "one of the best tight ends we've ever had in the program."
In his team's 35-0 victory over Oregon State Saturday, Pedersen gave fans a reason to buy into his head coach's high praise, as he registered six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns – all career highs – in front of a crowd of 80,337 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson connected with Pedersen for scores of 17 and 6 yards in the first half, the second and third time the duo have completed a touchdown connection this season.
"I've said this for a while now, but Pedersen, we've had a lot of good tight ends here, he might be the
most complete player we've had at that position when it's all said and done," Bielema said. "He's an Upper Peninsula boy who's raised the right way and works his tail off and is pretty error-free."
Pedersen, who entered Saturday's game with only 10 career catches, shattered his previous high marks for receptions (two) and receiving yards (38).
"Any time a playmaker, any time anyone on the team can come out and have a breakout performance and come out and contribute in a positive manner is great," senior wide receiver Nick Toon said.
Seeing tight ends develop is nothing new for the University of Wisconsin since Paul Chryst joined Bielema in 2006. Since Bielema became the head coach, Wisconsin has had five tight ends selected in the NFL draft. Lance Kendricks (St. Louis Rams) and Owen Daniels (Houston Texans) both enter the season as their teams' starters, while Garrett Graham (Houston) and Travis Beckum (New York Giants) remain on NFL rosters.
Throw in the fact that Jason Pociask played two seasons for the New York Jets (2006 and '07) and the position keeps regenerating itself each and every season.
"He's played behind some tremendous players, obviously, guys that are in the league now, starting and making plays," Toon said. "He's learned from great guys, great players and obviously, he's out there now making plays."
Pedersen was lightly recruited out of Menominee, Mich., and wasn't noticed by Wisconsin until late in his prep career when the UW coaching staff was tipped off by area high school coaches who had played against Pedersen's team and recognized the amount of potential he had. When Pedersen committed, his biggest interest was coming from Eastern Michigan, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth.
Then, after admittedly struggling in his new environment as a true freshman, Pedersen nearly decided to quit the team so he could play baseball and, perhaps, become a mortician. But after speaking with coaches and getting an opportunity on the Badgers' scout team, Pedersen opted to stay the course.
"Coach B always likes to bring that one up because he thinks it's funny," Pedersen said with a smile. "I mentioned that to him one day. I was going through some tough times and everything. A little homesick.
He kind of just told me ‘You're a good player. Stick with it.' They kind of gave me a chance next week to make plays and stuff just started clicking. I can't thank them enough."
Pedersen knows he must continue to improve to live up to Bielema's comments.
"I'm learning everything I can," Pedersen said. "I got to watch Garrett. I got to watch Lance. I watched
film on Travis Beckum. Everyone, they've got a different game, a different skill set. I try to take what I
learn from them and apply it to my game the best I can and just be the most complete tight end."
After entering Saturday's game with only 10 career catches, sophomore tight end Jacob Pedersen took the next step in becoming Wisconsin's next great tight end, setting career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns in No.8 Wisconsin's 35-0 victory.
Wisconsin sophomore tight end scores two first-half touchdowns in shutout victory