As a Madison East High School basketball and football star, Marquis Mason was as close to unguardable as any athlete I've seen in over 10 years. As a receiver in East's spread offense, Mason would get the ball on a screen pass, toss a defender or two aside and sprint down field. Mason's size, at 6'4" and 225 pounds, meant that few could out-leap him or fight through his stiff-arms to bring him down. He received a scholarship at Wisconsin but, after redshirting his first year, was injured and sat out the 2011 season.
At Madison Memorial, Jordan Fredrick was similarly imposing. In addition to receiver, he lined up at linebacker, which is where he received most of his accolades. Fredrick also played basketball, but wasn't a standout in Memorial's juggernaut system. A year behind Mason, he also won a scholarship and redshirted in 2011, converting to a full-time receiver.
Going into this season, Badger fans familiar with the pair's high school careers would have given Mason the edge in the competition for playing time at receiver. But head coach Bret Bielema gave a surprising assessment in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the end of training camp. "Marquis, I don't think, is ready to play at this level in any way right now," Bielema said.
Perhaps the 6'3," 215-pound Fredrick's background making tackles and fighting through blocks as a linebacker has set him apart in a run-first offense that demands a lot of down-field blocking from receivers.
"I pride myself in being a physical receiver," Fredrick said in training camp. "I'm not going against linemen anymore. Defensive backs are a different thing."
Fredrick made his debut as a starter on Saturday against Northern Iowa with two catches for 39 yards. Bielema said he was pleased with Fredrick, calling his contribution a "nice surprise."