MADISON - With the departure of Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner at the tight end position there seems to be an opportunity for several young players to step up and get into the position's rotation.
As a relative unknown during the recruiting process, Jacob Pedersen may be one that joins Lance Kendricks as a regular at the position.
At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the Michigan native. The following is a question and answer with Pedersen.
Now that you've gone through the first few days of practice, how has it been? Also winter conditioning, how did that go for you?
Pedersen: Winter conditioning, I kind of really tried to embrace it. I came in as a late tight end so I came in trying to work on my strength and get my weight up. I was a little low on that thing. Winter conditioning went really well. I had never really been through anything like that, so it was really good to experience it.
Practices, I'm just looking at spring as a way to learn the playbook. That's what I struggle with most in the fall. At the H, you learn a whole bunch of stuff. Then there is the Y and all the other stuff. I'm basically just trying to work the playbook and work on my fundamentals along the way.
Just talk about winter conditioning some more. What was the hardest part about that? Was it grueling or physically taxing?
Pedersen: It's not anything you've never heard of your life. You're doing your normal lifts. Ben Herbert is a great trainer. How he pieces things together, you've got conditioning days and days where he's lifting you heavy and other days he's repping you. When he does something it's not just to get you stronger, it's to get you better on the field.
There are some days where you get done and you're like, whoa, was that hard. But there are other days where you might not be sweating, but you know you worked a really good area.
Last year talking to guys in fall camp and even spring camp last year, they'd always say that there was always a lot of competition during winter conditioning. Was this year the same type of thing?
Pedersen: Herb, at the end of a lift if he sees a few players struggling at the end of a lift, at the end of the life he'll take those two guys and say, 'Take your guy. Who do you think will win?' He's making people compete just to get better. Everyone knows that seniors are graduating and there are open spots.
He just gets everyone's fire going and knowing, 'Hey, I can fight for a certain job out there.' Everyone wants to get on the field.
It kind of sets the tone doesn't it? It kind of gets you guys fired up.
Pedersen: Yeah, I mean he's a very energetic man. He's always got energy going. He's always yelling and trying to get people going. It helps us a lot. That's the thing, when you're in the weight room you can't be yawning and thinking I don't want to do this. You got to be up and going and you got to want it.
Last year you got to see Garrett, Mickey Turner and Lance in action, what have you learned from some of those guys during your first year on campus here that you can use moving forward here?
Pedersen: They all have different characteristics. Mickey is a great leader. He's vocal and he's always picking guys up and helping guys out. Garrett, you guys know, just did everything very well. He was so detailed in everything he did. He was an excellent blocker and excellent route runner. The page he was on with Tolzien, they could fine tune routes exactly how they wanted them.
I'm really working on my route running and that fact of learning coverage's. Lance plays with speed and strength and I'm just trying to take those kind of characteristics of playing fast and explosive.
What are the coaches plans? Do they have you at the H?
Pedersen: Yeah, right now they have me working mainly at the H. I mean, every once in a while they'll work me into the Y. Right now I'm just focusing on the H. After I get that I will probably do more Y and go in and learn a little bit at fullback, too.
Is there any that you prefer more than any other?
Pedersen: Whatever can get me on the field.
Is there any that suits your game better?
Pedersen: I feel like the H-end fits me a little better. I'm a little faster than I am strength wise. I kind of feel like in high school when I would split out a lot and everything. I would motion out of the backfield. The H kind of really fits me comfortably. I've played on the line before so I could easily get used to the Y. But just for what I played in high school, the H really fits me well and I feel comfortable there.
Kind of going back to winter conditioning, did you add weight?
Pedersen: Coming into Wisconsin last year I was about 220 pounds. Right now hitting the scales I'm usually between 230 and 232.
Is that where you want to be or are you looking to get bigger?
Pedersen: Herb wants me to get up to about 240. I'm pushing to get there. If I can get to a solid 235 I'd be happy with myself.
Is that where you need to be in the Big Ten to be a productive tight end?
Pedersen: You've got to look at what type of position you're playing. We want our Y's and fullbacks to be 250 or 260 and bigger and everything. Our H, where we have motion in the backfield and running routes and everything, you could play the H-end at 230 or 235. You want your weight to be 240 to 245 if you can play that fast. But the H is a little faster and the Y is a little stronger so you've kind of got to go with your position. I'd like to be at least a solid 240 by the time I get on the field.
You said last fall that you were struggling to learn the playbook. Is that coming along?
Pedersen: The playbook is getting a lot better. Spring ball, because we lost Mickey and Garrett and have a couple of guys out, I'm getting more reps. That's just the thing. You've got to take as many reps as you can get. Nobody is going to run perfectly every time. If you screw up, you've got to learn from your mistakes and take it as it goes.
Is spring ball kind of a job interview so to speak, maybe a chance to get yourself on the field?
Pedersen: You know, a lot of players could look at it like that as a job interview because you are working for your starting jobs. I guess that's basically what it is. I'm looking at it as a way to get better while working on the details. You got to look at it as if you are getting better and doing everything right, the pieces will fall into place.
Have the coaches kind of opened it up? Is it an open competition?
Pedersen: They are working everyone really everywhere. Obviously we are looking for a new Y. It will depend, it Lance can take that role he'll fill it and they'll work someone in at the H. We've got so many tight end formations. You're looking at Jake Byrne. Is he going to win the starting job? There is Rob Korslin, there's Brian Wozniak and there are so many other ones. Basically they're just looking at who fits the puzzle best.
Is there anyone on the defensive side of the ball that has stood out to you so far?
Pedersen: A lot of the linebackers are doing pretty good. A lot of the freshman linebackers and Culmer St. Jean. Actually, all of them. When they come up, they're not scared to hit you. They're coming up and they're filling holes. Looking at Chris Borland and Mike Taylor being out, just seeing a lot of the other linebackers stepping up and playing well is kind of nice to see.
Louis Nzegwu is playing really good at defensive end. At the defensive line there are a lot of questions, but you see them in practice and obviously they're playing really good and giving the offensive line, not struggles, but they're playing really good. Higher than people thought they would be doing.
Have you been impressed with anybody on the offensive side of the ball?
Pedersen: Offensive, I'm going to go with Jared Abbrederis. I would run routes with Jon Budmayr. He worked hard with Budmayr and you can obviously see their connection. He came from nobody knowing about him to catching 60-yard bombs on the field. He's been doing really well.
He's pretty fast.
Pedersen: Yeah, he's pretty fast. And you know, a lot of the receivers have been working on a lot of their rounds and everything. Montee Ball is going to be getting a lot of reps here this spring with John Clay being out.
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