Sophomore Travis Frederick routine is as plain as the beard on his face: literally.
"I think it could have magical powers," Frederick said.
Sporting a lumberjack beard to the fullest degree, Frederick has prepared through the rigors of fall camp with the first-team offense with a full chin of hair and few slip-ups, the reason he is going to the Badgers starting left guard in Thursday's primetime season opener against UNLV.
Primetime openers are nothing new for Frederick. Two years ago, Frederick became the first true freshman in school history to start a season opener, as the Walworth native delivered all the snaps in the win over Northern Illinois.
Frederick started three more games that season but with the team having cultivated plenty of depth, Frederick redshirted to build his strength and not waste a year of eligibility as a backup. The moved appears to have worked, because Frederick is going to make fans forget about All-American John Moffitt.
"We didn't get our full value with him his freshman year," offensive line coach Bob Bostad said previously. "Four games for him wasn't enough. We didn't promise him a redshirt, but we had a plan and hoped it would work."
The plan was to have Frederick and right tackle Ricky Wagner take over for left guard Moffitt and left tackle Gabe Carimi, respectively. So far, Bostad's vision has come to fruition. Wagner (6-6, 320 pounds) has moved seamlessly from right to left tackle and Frederick hasn't missed a beat, which has helped the two grow into their new roles since the spring.
"Our communication is a little bit better now than it was in the spring and definitely since we started together," Frederick said. "Ricky isn't the loudest guy and he doesn't chatter a lot, but we have gotten better together on our side of the line, which helps our line every pick up defenses and blitzes. For me, watching Moffitt through the season and the way he played and improved throughout the year, it's something that I want to do and follow that way."
As it turns out, Moffitt's impact on Frederick is the purpose for his beard. Mentoring Frederick throughout his tenure, Moffitt helped Frederick focus on the little details and perfecting the nuisances of what makes an offensive lineman successful. Moffitt also tried to make the lazy man's beard stylish again, starting his beard in training camp and didn't shave it until after Wisconsin won its first Big Ten title since 1999.
"He was an influence to me," Frederick said of Moffitt. "That guy, when I sat back and watched him my last two years, he was a strong guy that worked hard in the weight room and influenced me to work hard."
The result is Frederick transforming his body over the past two seasons. Building his body into a solid 330 pounds and eliminated excess fat, Frederick has drawn headlines since the spring for having squatted 730 pounds, which is a little more than the combined weight of UW's first-team linebackers.
When head coach Bret Bielema spilled the beans, he revealed that Frederick could have done more weight, but the strength and conditioning staff stopped him because, ‘no person should do that.'
"For me, I have the right body type and short, squatting legs that are thick around, but last year's developmental year was really the key for me," Frederick said. "For me to go out and play the first year and then have to sit gives you the motivation to get out on the field. I got in a lot of developmental lifts that helped me push harder and push on days where we had tough practices.
"The work that (assistant strength coach Brian) Bott did with me help me get through that, put me on the right page and definitely made me a better player overall."
Frederick admitted that Moffitt hasn't seen his immense growth on his chin since the former lineman was drafted. Planning to send a picture of his beard out to Seattle, Frederick can already read what Moffitt's sense of humor will be.
"He probably will say I don't get many ladies with it," Frederick said. "I don't think he'll be envious."
If Frederick can instead get Moffitt envious of his playing style, Wisconsin will be just fine at the left guard position.
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