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TE Jacob Pedersen's availability this week important to Badgers

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen could miss Saturday's game vs. Ohio State.

Wisconsin could be without starting tight end Jacob Pedersen for Saturday's game at Ohio State, and for a team that routinely starts at least two tight ends, his loss would be a big one.

The Badgers have started in a two-tight end set in three of their four games. In the other contest, they started three tight ends.

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Pedersen (6-feet-5, 240 pounds), one of the top 10 senior tight ends in the nation, was injured in this past Saturday's rout of Purdue. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Pedersen told a reporter he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Pedersen had 27 receptions for 355 yards and four TDs last season and has eight catches for 101 yards and a TD this season. He is the third-leading receiver on the team, and if he misses the game with the Buckeyes, Wisconsin's already shaky passing attack will be in even more trouble. Senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is the Badgers' leading receiver with 23 receptions for 365 yards and three touchdowns. But no other wide receiver has more than six receptions, and tailback James White is the No. 2 receiver with 11 catches.

In his weekly news conference Monday, Badgers coach Gary Andersen said that if Pedersen can't play, senior Brock DeCicco (6-5, 250) would be the best pass-catching option among Wisconsin's tight ends. In 18 career games with the Badgers after transferring from Pittsburgh, DeCicco has zero receptions.

Senior Brian Wozniak (6-4, 255) is listed as the other starting tight end, but he has just one catch this season and plays because of his blocking ability.

Pedersen is a willing blocker, but is at his best as a pass-catching tight end. He has good hands and is adept at finding open spots in zone defenses. And though he lacks elite speed, he does occasionally get deep. Pedersen seems a safe bet to become the sixth Badgers tight end to be drafted since 2006.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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