UW spring game opens intense line competition
The sophomore out of Walworth Big Foot High was anxious to sit outside and have some ice cream from Memorial Union (Berry Alvarez is his favorite flavor) and catch a couple baseball games (convinced that this is the year for the Milwaukee Brewers).
More importantly, Frederick is better prepared this spring to make a run at a starting position, the thing that has excited him the most about this time of year.
“This whole spring was about me fighting for a job, and this whole summer is about me wanting a job with the guys being out,” Frederick said. “I have to go out there and play at the highest level that I can.”
Going through 15 spring practices that began in mid-March and culminating with Wisconsin’s annual spring game Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, the big gains and substantial losses Frederick has made in one year are noticeable.
Frederick has dropped 15 pounds since the end of the season, has spent countless hours in the film room studying blitz pick-ups at center and both guard positions and tried to refine his technique.
“This spring is a lot different,” Frederick said. “Coming in and being through the whole season, I am not a rookie anymore, and I need to go out and take a leadership role.”
That extra jump makes Frederick one of the prime contenders in one of the most competitive position battles that the Wisconsin staff has going between now and the season opener September 4 in Las Vegas against UNLV.
The Badgers have five capable bodies fighting for the two guards and center positions.
The crowd in the middle of the line was created after injuries last season forced UW to shuffle its line around, building depth in the process.
John Moffitt returns for a senior season. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors at left guard after moving from center. He’s been limited this spring following hernia surgery, but has practiced this past week for the first time.
Sophomore Peter Konz started at center for nine games last season after Frederick went down with an ankle injury against Fresno State. Konz is versatile enough to play all three line positions, but he has been removed from contact due to taking blood thinners to fix a blood clot issue that surfaced prior to the final regular-season game at Hawaii.
Ironically, that was the medical issue that put Frederick back in the lineup for the final two games at left guard.
“I am lifting weights, running during practice, snapping with the quarterbacks, so I am trying to stay active,” said Konz, who should be full-go by the start of summer conditioning in June.
“It was kind of a letdown having a good season and not playing the last two games, but I’ve been feeling great and am excited to get back.”
The Badgers have junior Kevin Zeitler returning at right guard. Zeitler started all 13 games last season after incumbent guard Bill Nagy was sidelined for most of the season with wrist and foot injuries sustained in a scooter accident last July.
Nagy’s wrist surgery was successful, but the torn ligaments on the arch of his foot and swelling made his season a struggle. Practicing at left guard throughout the spring, Nagy is getting closer to 100 percent.
“I think competition brings out the best in everybody,” Nagy said. “The reality is that not everybody is going to be playing. It is what it is.”
When asked, Nagy was quick to identify more than a couple horses in the race, commenting that sophomore Ryan Groy and redshirt freshman Zac Matthias could be two of the strongest linemen in the program and junior Jake Current, who is currently the backup center, can also play guard.
With guys out or slowly recovering from injury, Frederick continues to make strides, which he hopes keeps him a leg up on the surrounding competition.
“We have three or four or five guys competing for three spots, so that’s going to bring a lot of competition,” Frederick said. “I think that’s when you are getting the biggest gains, because you are competing and getting ready to go.”
New Commit: Wisconsin received a verbal commitment from Merrill (Wis.) athlete Sam Arneson (6-4, 227 lbs.) Thursday afternoon. He joins Baldwin-Woodville (Wis.) linebacker Jake Keefer in UW’s 2011 recruiting class and projects to play tight end.