Wagner, Frederick look to anchor No. 11 Wisconsin
Wisconsin guard Travis Frederick plans to be ''a mauler'' after replacing the affable John Moffitt on the Badgers' offensive line. At tackle, Ricky Wagner is even quieter than Gabe Carimi.
This is the new look of the left side of Wisconsin's offensive line. The two will be relied on to pick up where Moffitt and Carimi left off after a Rose Bowl trip that featured three Wisconsin running backs gaining more than 900 yards each on the way to a share of a Big Ten title.
''There's not really a good way to replace those guys. All that Ricky and I are trying to do is go in and make an identity for ourselves,'' Frederick said.
They'll get their first test on Thursday night, when the 11th-ranked Badgers face UNLV at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Chicago Bears drafted Carimi in the first round, the Seattle Seahawks picked Moffitt in the third and another lineman, Bill Nagy, went in the seventh round to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Badgers' identity is built around their ability to run over opponents. Even with new quarterback Russell Wilson able to give the team a different look, it starts up front because Wisconsin always tries to establish the run.
''I always want to work on my intensity and I need to work on pad level and just driving people off the ball. Just going out there and being a mauler,'' Frederick said. ''That's what John did best and that's what everybody on our offensive line here at Wisconsin does.''
Frederick redshirted last year to help preserve depth, and even though the two most experienced linemen are gone along with Nagy, the group that includes center Peter Konz, right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Josh Oglesby has seen extensive time, too. The five projected linemen expected to start Thursday have combined for 71 starts.
All the experience means Wisconsin will continue to have some of the best depth in the nation, even though that's been tested in camp with injuries to Zeitler (ankle) and reserve lineman Casey Dehn (ankle). Oglesby also missed the final six games last season with a knee injury and Konz dealt with his own injured ankle last year that allowed Nagy to step into the role, something that's not lost on coach Bret Bielema or this year's line.
''I think they took a lot of pride in there's a guy who's possibly starting for the Dallas Cowboys that couldn't get in the starting lineup a year ago,'' Bielema said. ''Last year, we had so many scouts coming through and a lot them would gravitate to the O-line. I'm watching them work out and they would be like, `Coach, these guys look better than our guys.'''
The group in recent years has been bigger than NFL lines, too, and ready to step into the pro ranks after being taught by Bob Bostad, an intense assistant coach who is starting his sixth year with the Badgers.
Wisconsin's offense tied a Big Ten record a year ago with 46 rushing touchdowns running behind Bostad's unit.
''It takes a certain personality to be able to handle an offensive line. You've got a lot of big, fat guys who like to joke around and goof around. That's all we really want to do,'' Frederick said. ''He has to take us and make us into the best offensive line he can. I think it takes a personality to do that and he takes and really embraces that responsibility. He pushes us to where we haven't been before.''
That includes Wagner, a walk-on who later earned a scholarship and was thrust into a starting role at right tackle after multiple injuries to Oglesby, who is healthy this season. Now Wagner has the spotlight at Wisconsin by playing left tackle in the wake of two former first-round picks - Joe Thomas, who won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman in 2006, and Carimi, who won it last season.
''Ricky has made the transition from right to left. I know it comes with a lot of expectations: left tackle at the University of Wisconsin. And I think Ricky is going to be able to hold up to that,'' Bielema said. ''Ricky is kind of a quiet guy, doesn't say a lot, he just kind of goes about his business. He might have an exceptional block, he walks back to the huddle the same way as if he wasn't so good. He's just an even-keel guy.''
Wagner remains humble about what he and the rest of the Badgers can accomplish, while giving a glimpse of just how eccentric the group can be.
''I came here watching Joe Thomas' film, watching Gabe and playing with Gabe. They are great teachers,'' Wagner said. ''The O-line sometimes isn't the most fun position to play. There's a lot of hard work. We enjoy that. But off the field, I think we have to joke around to release some steam. Travis is telling the truth: We're a bunch of big, fat guys.''
AP freelancer Tammy Madsen contributed to this report.