November 30, 2009

Change in Moffitt's stance paved way for success

MADISON - Just before fall camp was set to begin, Wisconsin junior lineman John Moffitt, who was slated to begin his second season as the starting center, injured his shoulder in a weight lifting accident.

As a result, the Connecticut native missed the majority of August's sweltering workouts. Then, when the season finally started in early September against Northern Illinois, Moffitt was nowhere to be seen on the offensive line as he continued to nurse the strained muscle in his left shoulder.

In fact, it wasn't until the Big Ten opener against Michigan State that Moffitt got the starting nod.

And it was at left guard, not center.

"It was a big transition," Moffitt said. "And a lot of adjustments this year."

In 2008, Moffitt started every game at center. But after the injury sidelined him for a quarter of the season, and with Peter Konz playing at a high enough level after replacing Travis Frederick at center, the only way the junior lineman would get on the field would be at a different position.

So, he moved.

"A lot of my expectations after I moved to left guard was just to be a good left guard," Moffitt said. "Try to get into that position and feel comfortable at it. I've been saying this and I've tried every week to work on new things. I work on my pull game, work on my pass blocking and my run blocking."

As eloquent as Moffitt makes the transition sound, it wasn't always that easy.

After playing what essentially equates to the quarterback of the offensive line for an entire season, Moffitt had to tweak everything from his assignments to the particular set up of his stance.

In short, taking a new position presented news adjustments.

"I was realizing it wasn't the best stance for run and pass blocking," Moffitt said. "It was more of a center stance. It wasn't staggered as much."

It probably wasn't until he was exposed in games against Michigan State and Ohio State that Moffitt totally recognized the need to focus in on his individual play in a more critical manner.

"Against Michigan State, I didn't have a great game pulling," Moffitt said. "Then I worked on pulling and thought I did a better job of it against Minnesota. Then against Ohio State I was exposed in pass protection. The rest of the year I had no sacks."

Though he is a junior and a player who has been in the program for quite some time, it was a true sophomore's method that helped Moffitt play at a high level deep into the season.

"I actually looked at Kevin Zeitler and I was like, you know, he's got a staggered stance and he seems to be comfortable in that," Moffitt said. "So I kind of modeled it after him and staggered it a little more. I tried to do a little more of a tackle thing. The further you move out, the more you have to stagger it.

"That's what I kind of did."

As a result, Moffitt was named a First-Team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media when the Big Ten Network revealed the awards last week. From not starting the first three games of the season to switching positions and playing well enough in seven games to earn the distinction, it surely has been an interesting season for Moffitt.

"It was really nice," Moffitt said of the all-conference selection. "It was a nice surprise. I'm really thankful for the honor and everything like that. I didn't really expect it. I want to finish out this year and I'm excited for Hawaii and I'm excited for the bowl game.

"But I think now I am really eased into the position. I felt like during the last four games of the year, I was playing complete football which was nice."

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