Thursday, August 28, 2008

Givens anchors Cowboys talented d-line

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior noseguard Fred Givens works a drill against an offensive lineman during spring drills.

Editor's Note: This story was previously published on a previous version of Wyoming last spring:

By Richard Anderson

Call him Fast Freddy or Freddy Frontline and Wyoming junior noseguard Fred Givens will respond. He’s fine with the nicknames. That wasn’t exactly the case when Givens first came here from Chickasha, Okla., three years ago.

At the time, Givens was a rookie in a foreign land and he basically kept to himself. A starter last year at the noseguard position, Givens is not only coming around as a player, but coming out of his shell.

“When Fred first got here, you couldn’t get him to say his own name,” UW defensive line coach Lance Robinson said. “Now, he jokes and he has become a leader for the younger kids. It’s like watching your own kids grow. It’s pretty rewarding to watch him transform; he came here as a kid and now he is becoming a man.”

It has just become a matter of being comfortable in your surroundings for Givens, who played a big part of plugging the middle for the nationally-ranked Wyoming defense last season.

“When I first got here, I was the new kid and I didn’t talk that much,” Givens said. “Now that I’ve gotten to know everybody on the team, you learn that everybody here is a good guy and you learn to open up. I’m just having a good time now.”

Last spring in a break between drills in the Indoor Practice Facility, Givens was chasing around Robinson’s young son, Wynn, who was giving him a bad time. When the elder Robinson returned from the break, one of the Cowboy D-linemen suggested that both Wynn and Givens take a time out.

“He always likes to get me when my back is turned,” Givens said with an own mischievous look on his face. “Today, he decided to pick up some of those little black rubbers off the field and throw them at me. It was tough to overlook that. He ended getting a whole handful of them.”

Lance Robinson said he tries to coach with a family atmosphere. He said that if you asked any of the D-linemen, they’ll tell you that Givens fits in like kin.

“We’re all family members; he’s really opened up a lot,” Robinson said. “When he first got here he was real quiet. Now, he is a little more outgoing; he says a lot more. He’s worked really hard in school and in the weight room to get where he is at right now.”

That transformation has paid off on the field as well. Last season, Givens finished with 45 tackles, including 15 solo tackles. He had four stops for losses and one sack.

At 6-foot-1 and about 300 pounds, Givens has the stereotypical build for his position. Low to the ground, Givens was also a good wrestler in high school. The combination has made him an effective nose guard.

“They (wrestlers) understand leverage and know where their body is and where people are pushing on them,” Robinson said. “That’s helped him tremendously. He is built so low to the ground that his center of gravity is a lot lower than the O-linemen he is going against. It’s a big advantage for him.”

While most defensive linemen try to gain weight, Givens has been on a crusade this past off-season to lose weight. He’s about 15 pounds lighter than he was last fall. Givens said he wants to lose about four more pounds.

The weight loss is two-fold, Givens said: To be quicker and to have the ability to be a pass rusher.

“Last year I was more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. This year, I’ve widened my game a little more to become a pass rusher,” he said.

With talented backup nose guards such as senior Rob Hollway, Givens knows that to be on the field as much as possible, he has to be more versatile.

“You can’t just be a run stopper,” Givens said. “If you want to be the starting nose guard, you have to learn to do both, the run and pass rush.”

Another makeover for Givens has been in the classroom.

“He’s really turned that around and is doing a great job,” Robinson said.

Givens said it was his lack of maturity and motivation that had him struggling in the classroom in his first year at Wyoming.

“When I first got here, I didn’t have my parents over me. I’d wake up and go lift, but I was like, ‘school doesn’t look that good today.’ Now, it is an everyday thing. Now, missing class is not an option. I don’t like to miss class anymore.”

A communications major, Givens said he would like to either go into broadcasting or coach football once his playing days are over.

“I’d like to stay involved in the sport, so coaching would be perfect for me,” Givens said.

As Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn likes to say, Givens has had a couple of birthdays since he first enrolled at Wyoming. It has shown on and off the field.

“People say I am shy, but I just like to read people before I open my mouth,” Givens said.

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