By Tom Lea
Jacob Pedersen was open. Wide-open even. If it wouldn't have been for TCU's Tank Carder's 'Johnny at the spot' play, Pedersen probably would have caught Scott Tolzien's pass and the Badgers would have found a way to tie the game against the Horned Frogs late during the Rose Bowl.
Unfortunately if you're a Badger fan, it didn't work out that way. But the sheer fact that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst had the type of trust in a sophomore tight end in that situation says a lot about the player Pedersen has developed into. He's improved every season he's been in Madison and he seems poised to be the next in what's becoming a pretty lenghty list of success stories at the tight end position.
He's not as fast as his predecessor Lance Kendricks, but he doesn't really need to be. He's a physical player that doesn't shy away from contact and in reality, that's what will help him become an even better player. Considering how much the Badgers run the ball and considering how much teams adhere to that type of offensive structure, there will be plenty of space, particularly across the middle of the field, for a player such as Pedersen to make an impact.
He may not be able to stretch the field quite like Kendricks or Travis Bekcum were able to, but he'll find plenty of ways to contribute that suit his particular style. If one thing has been evident throughout Chryst's tenure as UW offensive coordinator it's that he always finds ways to utilize his tight ends.
That's why Pedersen will be one of the more important players when the 2011 season gets underway. He'll be relied upon to make plays and move the chains when second and third down comes around. That's the way Wisconsin operates. Judging by his larger role a season ago and his play (when healthy) during spring camp, it looks as though Wisconsin will be just fine.
UP NEXT: No. 13 on our list will likely be one of the offense's better leaders. As a senior he'll play an instrumental role in helping the running backs and the new quarterback.