MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin wide receiver Jordan Fredrick is doing his best not to pinch himself this week. Otherwise, he might wake up and realize how close he is to earning a starting role for his hometown school.
“I think about it all the time,” Fredrick said. “Obviously, you’ve still got to be in that fan mode being a hometown kid. It’s pretty fun being out there all the time. It is a lot more pressure because I understand what it means to a lot of people in this area.”
Fredrick, a product of Madison Memorial High School, played almost literally in the shadows of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. A six-mile drive is all that separates the high school and the UW football stadium, which has a history in the Fredrick family. Fredrick’s dad, Craig, played tight end at Wisconsin from 1979-81.
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Now, Jordan Fredrick is the leading candidate to win the starting job as Wisconsin’s No. 2 wide receiver opposite Jared Abbrederis. This week, he worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense during fall practices.
For a guy who spent childhood afternoons watching his beloved Badgers play from the stands, it can be an overwhelming feeling. But Fredrick, a redshirt freshman, recognizes his job isn’t done yet.
Far from it.
“I’ve been trying to get in a lot of film,” he said. “If I’m going to be a redshirt freshman and play or even get a chance to start, I’ve got to know the game just as good as an upperclassman does.”
Badgers coach Bret Bielema cited Fredrick’s consistency as a determining factor in separating himself from a pack of other wide receiver candidates.
“He has a high care factor,” Azzanni said. “He really cares and he wants to get better. He shuts down this building every night. I’ve got to tell him to go home and get rest because he’s in there grinding on the film, and he wears me out.”
Last year, Fredrick took a redshirt season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. The surgery repaired two labrum tears, and Fredrick spent spring practices wearing a non-contact green jersey.
Off the field, the 6-foot-3 Fredrick worked to change his body composition. Although he weighs about the same — 215 pounds — he said he added a better type of weight.
“Coming in last year, I was more a linebacker weight type,” he said. “Not the best for receiver in college, but it’s working out pretty good right now.”
Fredrick’s emergence comes at an opportune time because the Badgers desperately needed a second wide receiver to step up behind Abbrederis. A year ago, Abbrederis was the No. 2 wideout behind Nick Toon, who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in April.
Beyond Abbrederis, only three wide receivers on the current roster — Jeff Duckworth, Manasseh Garner and Kenzel Doe — made a catch last season. Duckworth caught 15 passes, while Garner and Doe caught just two apiece.
Yet Fredrick appears to have leapfrogged them all.
“He’s a big receiver,” Abbrederis said. “He can run. He’s just got to work a little bit on some of his skills, but I think the thing with Jordan is every day he gets better. He takes practice film to the field so he does really good getting rid of his mistakes and improving.”
Azzanni said he would like to create a rotation of six wide receivers capable of playing on game day in an effort to wear down defensive backs. In addition to Duckworth, Garner, Doe and Fredrick, Chase Hammond, A.J. Jordan, Reggie Love and Isaiah Williams are battling for playing time.
Doe could be the player that provides a third option at wide receiver. Doe, at 5-8, is shifty and spent considerable time in practice this week lined up as a slot receiver. He also was one of only three true freshmen to earn a letter last season, playing primarily on special teams.
“I’m just trying to separate myself by being a small guy, doing the little quick stuff like bubbles, unders, going across the middle if they want me to,” Doe said. “Stuff that will get me in space to where I know I can make a move, or even downfield on seams. They use me just like they would use Jared Abbrederis.”
Last season, Abbrederis and Toon combined to record 1,859 receiving yards. The rest of the team’s wide receivers totaled 279 yards.
Although Fredrick is in line to start, he doesn’t anticipate the numbers being skewed so drastically in favor of the starters this season.
“We’re a lot more well-rounded,” Fredrick said. “Last year, we had some great top two receivers, obviously, and you didn’t want to take them out ever since they made big plays. But this year, I think we have a lot more guys that have learned the game a lot better the past few months and can make big plays, so we can have a deeper rotation.”
Azzanni said he wasn’t sure what that rotation would look like for Wisconsin’s season opener against Northern Iowa in 15 days. But at the very least, Fredrick, the hometown kid, should get plenty of action.
“He’s been doing good,” Doe said. “Hopefully he can keep that up as we get close to UNI, and he’ll probably have the starting job.”