MADISON - One of a handful of wide receivers who ended the spring banged up on the sidelines, Jordan Fredrick recognized how important this past summer was for his group of teammates, not to mention the three new receivers joining the ranks.
“We had four guys gone at the end of spring, which is not good and not what we want to go through with (Jared Abbrederis) leaving,” said Fredrick. “This summer was big on everyone getting healthy.”
The battle is still ongoing for Fredrick, who along with senior wide receiver Kenzel Doe missed bits and pieces of Wisconsin’s first week of preseason camp with bumps and bruises. With Abbrederis gone and UW’s two most experienced receivers on the shelf, most would have expected Wisconsin’s Sunday intrasquad scrimmage to be a running showcase. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Unofficially, 12 players caught passes during the approximate 100 play scrimmage, including nine receptions by receivers. Reggie Love had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, true freshman Natrell Jamerson had two catches for 25 yards and fellow true freshman George Rushing had a 21-yard touchdown.
For a group that was thought to struggle without the team’s leading wide receiver the last two years, Wisconsin is starting to show that looks can be deceiving.
“There’s a huge sense of urgency,” said Fredrick. “It’s not just coasting in and following Abby or following the leader. Someone has got to lead, someone has got to step up and that’s the biggest thing. Everybody is running to get to that spot. We’re not following to get that number two spot.
“The past two years, everyone has been looking for someone and wanting for someone to step up. This year we need somebody to step up. We can’t win if we can’t pass the ball.”
Since Nick Toon graduated following the 2011 season, Wisconsin has been unsuccessful in its attempts to develop a legitimate number two receiver to take coverage pressure off Abbrederis. A combination of Abbrederis’ talents and being such a reliable target caused other receivers to fall by the wayside.
“If (the quarterbacks) didn’t feel comfortable throwing to anyone, they can throw it to Abby,” said Fredrick. “Now (the quarterbacks) have to pick somebody. There has to be somebody to go to. There has to be more than one guy to go to. The quarterback doesn’t want to sit back in the pocket and take a sack. We’ve got to get open and make a play.”
Originally recruited with the thought he’d start at linebacker, Fredrick, who played prep football at nearby Madison Memorial, has made steady progress over his last two seasons. He caught 17 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl as a redshirt freshman, and while his numbers were down last season (10 catches for 106 yards), Fredrick developed into one of the unit’s best downfield blockers.
After an offseason of film study and strength building, Fredrick feels his football IQ will help compensate for his lack of breakaway speed.
“Maybe I can outsmart a lot of guys in the first few games going into Big Ten play, that’s the biggest thing,” said Fredrick.
According to wide receivers coach Chris Beatty, Fredrick’s pregame preparation is the current gold standard in the room.
“Jordan is so smart,” said Beatty. “He’s one of those guys that anything you say in the classroom he gets. He could not take a rep and be able to know exactly what to do on the field. All those older guys are so coachable that anything you tell them they can translate right to the field. Jordan is a coach on the field and knows how to keep working to put him in the right position.”
Although Wisconsin doesn’t return one wide receiver who caught over 10 passes or 130 receiving yards last season, Fredrick looks around the receiving corps and sees a bunch of hungry young guys with an edge.
“Nobody wants to forget Abby and what he’s done here, but the biggest thing is to make a name for ourselves,” said Fredrick. “We don’t want to look back every game and say, ‘If we had Abby, we’d make that play.’ Hopefully we can make the play and it doesn’t have to be mentioned.”