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September 23, 2011

Garner working back into it

MADISON - Sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Garner has had plenty of opportunities to watch teammates Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis throughout the past month and a half.

He sees how those two have started their seasons with a combined 24 catches, 330 yards and three touchdowns. He sees senior quarterback Russell Wilson throwing darts, rarely ever missing his intended target.

He sees a young player like Jeff Duckworth working into the rotation.

Most importantly, he sees a guy every time he looks in the mirror that has the crude task of making up for an entire month of practice that he missed while recovering from hernia surgery.

"It's not as easy as it looks," Garner said earlier this week. "I've just been in it and trying to lock in. I'm just learning daily and trying to get out there. I'm definitely trying to make up the time."

Since gaining clearance from the medical staff prior to UW's week two tilt with Oregon State - - a game the Badgers would win 35-0 - - Garner has only seen minimal reps. He hasn't caught a pass and he hasn't really been involved with the game plan.

When asked about doing too much, Garner simply said it's been 'frustrating' simply because the mental grind he's been through has been grueling. When pressed about his choice of words, Garner made it clear that frustration was the wrong choice of words and that it had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of playing time he was receiving.

"It's just doing my part and just trying to be perfect," Garner said. "Not perfect, but proficient. I want to make fewer mistakes every day. I wouldn't say it's frustrating. It's not. But it's a challenge.

"Every day is a challenge to go out there and attack it and just make less mistakes every time."

Bret Bielema, who has long been a major advocate for the potential Garner has, says he hasn't seen anything throughout the past number of weeks that would indicate the sophomore wide out trying to do too much to make up for the amount of practice time he's missed.

"I lit him up the other day," Bielema said. "Manasseh is a good football player. He's big and he's athletic and he hasn't really done much for us. We're trying to limit his package, especially on offense.

"I think he's just on two special teams so we're trying to make it small with the hopes it will make him play big."

With an FCS opponent on tap this weekend and considering the way the Badgers have been playing, Saturday's game against South Dakota may present the best chance for Garner to break into the fray.

He's been preparing this week as he has every other week and at least to him, it seems to be paying off.

"I'm getting better with each week," Garner said. "This week is another big week. My main focus is just doing my jog, going out on that field and doing my assignment. Playing is clear. I'm a two right now and I've got to work to become a No. 1.

"That's my main focus."


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