UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: 'Smaller' Havenstein ready to make big impact as starter

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There's more to Rob Havenstein than meets the eye. Well, actually, there's less; much less than the 380 pounds that the UW offensive tackle carried into his freshman season at Wisconsin.

In advance of his first college start Saturday against South Dakota, the 6-foot-8 Havenstein is listed at 345 in the Badgers' media notes; and even that's an overbid. He's slimmed down closer to 335.

"I can actually move,'' Havenstein said.

But one thing hasn't changed.

"He's big,'' said UW senior right guard Kevin Zeitler, who will be lining up next to Havenstein instead of the injured Josh Oglesby. "But he's also very motivated. He wants to do well.''

Added defensive end Tyler Dippel, "He's lost the weight, but he hasn't lost any strength. If anything, he's gotten stronger. You can't say enough about how hard he works.''

A Sports Illustrated writer was recently dispatched to Madison to delve into the success of the offensive line. Work ethic, no doubt, will be one of themes when the story runs in next week's issue.

Dippel has had a front row seat for Havenstein's development.

They've been ramming helmets in practice since last fall.

"Just to see a guy of his size and stature move the way he does is really impressive,'' Dippel said. "He's come a long ways since he first got on campus as far as speed and the way he moves his feet.

"He's a guy who has a great attitude; he's always smiling, always happy. But when it's time to get to work, he does -- and that's what I really like about him.''

Havenstein has been bolstered by all the work that he got during spring practice.

"The spring was a big help for me, especially working with the ones for half the spring,'' said Havenstein, who was then frustrated during training camp after rolling an ankle. "I missed a lot of reps.''

But he's back to where he was before the injury, which is timely. Oglesby, who had been starting at right tackle, injured his knee during last Saturday's win over Northern Illinois.

"I guess the best advice I've gotten,'' Havenstein said, "is probably from Josh. He just said, 'Don't worry about all the outside pressure of everyone telling you that you're a starter. Just play your game.'

"Josh has been unbelievable to me. He has kind of helped me out with the defenses and my techniques. I've hung out with him all last year and this year. He's one of my best friends on the team.''

What's the best thing Zeitler could tell Havenstein?

"Prepare and play your butt off,'' he said. "Watch the film, get every rep you can, learn everything, know it before it happens, take a deep breath and just go play. That's the biggest thing.''

Left guard Travis Frederick has gone through his own transition to the starting lineup.

"His biggest adjustment now is to go out there and trust the coaching that's he had,'' Frederick said. "He's had reps. He's been in games. He practices every day. He just needs to trust his instincts.''

Frederick, who redshirted last season, started four games as a true freshman in 2009.

"Your first start is always a big thing,'' he said. "But it goes back to knowing your playbook. He's been with the ones and twos. Coach Bo (Bob Bostad) does a good job of rotating guys in and out.

"So you get used to communicating with everybody. If something happens, if someone goes down (with an injury), it makes it easier to make that adjustment when they come in.''

That would be the "next man up'' -- Ryan Groy for Frederick, now Havenstein for Oglesby. Despite the injuries up front, the offensive line has continued to function at a high rate of efficiency.

That will likely be another theme in the SI article.

"I can't wait for Saturday, it's going to be fun,'' Havenstein said.

There will be no shortage of incentive, especially playing next to Zeitler.

"Kevin knows what he's doing -- he's quick to react,'' said Havenstein, a high-profile recruit out of Mount Airy, Md. "I know I have to pick up my game to play to his speed.''

Getting up to speed is much easier -- minus the 45 pounds that he's lost.

"It's a process,'' he said. "I'm still working on reshaping my body, changing fat to muscle.''

But he's still big.

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