If Dave Hinkens wasn’t familiar with Port Washington’s Tyler Beach and Menomonie’s Alex Fenton before the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game practices, it wouldn’t have taken much time to notice them.
Hinkens, the coach of the North Large All-Stars, has the fortune of coaching the only two University of Wisconsin scholarship players in Saturday’s three games — the 6-foot-6, 295-pound Beach and the 6-5, 283-pound Fenton, who will play right and left tackle, respectively, on the same offensive line at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh.
“We’ve only had those guys for one practice,” Hinkens said earlier this week, “but you knew who they were. They stood out.”
Today will mark the third time Hinkens has coached a WFCA All-Star game, and each time the game featured future NFL players in Jared Abbrederis, Melvin Gordon and Derek Watt.
If that trend continues with the 2017 class, Beach and Fenton may be two of the best candidates and are only half of an impressive group of scholarship in-state offensive linemen joining the Badgers this year. Many rate Middleton’s Kayden Lyles higher than every other player in UW’s class, and Kimberly’s Logan Bruss is also a promising prospect.
Incoming freshmen began working out with the Badgers on June 19, but Beach and Fenton are taking a break from summer conditioning to play in one more high school game.
Despite how promising UW’s newest offensive linemen may be, they’ll likely sit the next couple of years behind a mostly experienced starting lineup.
“I think it’s awesome being able to be with a veteran O-line that knows what they’re doing,” Beach said. “They have so much experience. They’re able to give us so much direction, and it’s been able to keep us on the right path. They know what mistakes we need to avoid, and what things we need to keep up with.”
Beach said he was also eager to keep learning during All-Star week, whether it was picking up new tricks or polishing his technique.
Hinkens can already see Beach’s potential, saying he could enjoy “a very long football career beyond Wisconsin.”
Josiah Pledl, the North Large All-Stars’ offensive line coach, compared Fenton to in-state product Travis Frederick, an All-Pro center for the Dallas Cowboys and former All-American at UW.
“When we went through the selection process for this game, we looked at multiple game films, we looked at highlight films. Just athletically, he reminds me of Travis Frederick when he was coming out of Big Foot High School, just with his incredible athleticism that you normally don’t see with an offensive lineman. I think he’s going to be something really special,” Pledl said.”
Fans may need to wait years before Beach or Fenton completely fulfill that potential. That’s what makes today special for the two of them, though. The outcome — and even their performance — will be meaningless, but the experience certainly won’t be.
“Just one more game experience,” Fenton said. “There’s a lot of depth at O-line in Madison, and I’m looking for just one more game experience because it’ll be a couple years before that happens again.”