Upper-body injuries may not halt Abbrederis

MADISON, Wis. — It appears there is an outside chance Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis could return to play for Saturday’s game against Utah State.

That’s the word from Badgers coach Bret Bielema, who said Abbrederis’ status is “still up in the air.” Abbrederis suffered a chest contusion and mild concussion during Wisconsin’s 10-7 loss to Oregon State last week.

“He was out there today,” Bielema said following Thursday’s practice. “Didn’t put him in any live contact stuff. At first they said no. Now, it’s coming more and more. He was in meetings yesterday and I didn’t expect him there.”

Abbrederis is tied for the team lead with seven receptions and leads the team in receiving yards (110) and touchdowns (two). Wisconsin’s other two starting wideouts, Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe, have a combined seven catches for 80 yards.

If Abbrederis can’t play, Bielema said Jeff Duckworth would fill in as a starter at wide receiver. Duckworth has seven catches for 55 yards this season — all of which took place last Saturday when he played in place of Abbrederis.

“The neat thing about Duck, he really has the ability to play all three positions and is a nice role player,” Bielema said.

Bielema indicated that Doe or James White would take over punt return responsibilities if Abbrederis sits out. Melvin Gordon filled in for Abbrederis on kickoff returns a week ago.

Bielema said doctors initially told him on Sunday that Abbrederis would be out for this week.

“And then I guess it was Tuesday after he had a follow up, they’re like, ‘Coach he wants to be involved, getting in the meeting rooms,'” Bielema said. “A lot of times with guys with concussions, we kind of just rest them, not even involve them in meetings. We try to let them go home, sit and sleep and that usually brings them back to pass.

“But just knowing Abby, I just have a hunch that he’s probably going to find his way out there.”

Buzz is back: Bielema said he could tell a distinct different in the energy level from players during practice this week. The team endured a difficult few days when Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson on Sunday and replaced him with graduate assistant Bart Miller.

“I think the No. 1 reason I made transition was to change the room, change the dynamics,” Bielema said. “That definitely happened. I think the kids were really juiced. Tuesday’s practice, I was actually a little concerned Wednesday watching the film if we didn’t spend it all on Tuesday. There was just so much energy and enthusiasm and they really tempoed it all pretty good this week.”

Bielema said players held discussions among themselves on Sunday about improving their play. Wisconsin’s first opportunity to do so will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

“I think that’s been addressed, and hopefully you’re going to see that on Saturday,” he said. “Night games at Camp Randall have been pretty exciting. If they can’t get up for that one, then we’ve got real problems.”

Miller the man: Saturday’s game will be Miller’s first as an assistant coach at the Division I level. Bielema said Miller’s role had clearly changed in the past week with him taking over as offensive line coach.

“It’s a lot more verbage, communication,” Bielema said. “You hear his voice out there. You haven’t heard it as much as you did this week just because he’s truly coaching the position. I give the kid a lot of credit. He actually had a plan that he’s been working on for the last year and a half about when he finally got his own room, his first time in there in front of people.

“I think it really was amazing to me as a head coach to sit back and at least see him handle Tuesday’s practice and the way he did it. Obviously, Saturday’s game will be a big tell.”

Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter