July 22, 2009

Fall Outlook: Offensive Line

With Wisconsin's fall camp set to begin Aug. 10, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look at the individual position groups. Today, our continuing series digs into the offensive line.

Because injuries hampered the offensive line a season ago, plenty of the players on the current roster got a taste of game action. Still, with no seniors anchoring the line, the unit will need to mesh well together during fall camp and carry that continuity into the season.

Departing Starters: Andy Kemp, Kraig Urbik and Eric VandenHeuval
Returning Starters: Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Josh Oglesby and Bill Nagy
Top Reserves: Travis Frederick, Jake Current, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz

Post-Spring Depth Chart:

Left Tackle
Gabe Carimi (6-8, 313)
Ricky Wagner (6-7, 308)

Left Guard
Jake Bscherer (6-7, 310)
Travis Frederick (6-3, 333)

John Moffitt (6-4, 313)
Jake Current (6-4, 290)

Right Guard
Bill Nagy (6-4, 307)
Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 301)

Right Tackle
Josh Oglesby (6-7, 329)
Peter Konz (6-6, 298)

Overview: Though four of the five projected starters made starts in 2008, it did not go far in replacing the experience lost from a veteran line. Instead, replacing Kemp, Urbik and VandenHeuval to graduation means the returning linemen are all still relatively young and inexperienced.

"We've got two guys that have any experience," UW offensive line coach Bob Bostad said during spring camp. "That's it."

Of course, Bostad was referring to Carimi at left tackle and Moffitt at center. Other than those two, none of the remaining three projected starters have been on the field to start a game more than a handful of times.

Adding to the mix are the struggles Oglesby had during spring camp with consistency and physicality, Bscherer adjusting to a new position after a redshirt year and the loss of three veteran players, and the line has plenty of work to do before the season opener Sept. 5. The potential is there, but gelling as a cohesive unit is a top priority.

"I think the sky is the limit," Bscherer said during spring camp. "We're definitely all making a lot of gains and I definitely give all the credit in the world to coach Bostad, he's a great coach. I really feel like we're all getting better and I think, like I said, the sky is the limit.

"It can really be a good cohesive unit."

The Pro(s): Moffitt and Carimi. If there is any consolation to the youth on the offensive line, it's that the two more experienced players are at the two most important positions. With Carimi manning the left tackle position, it is his primary duty to protect the backside of the right-handed quarterback. And for Moffitt at center, he obviously needs to deliver the ball to the quarterback and also protect. These two have been starting for quite some time and each has plenty of experience. Therefore, they will each anchor the leadership role at the position.

"I think around here, and the thing coach Bostad tries to teach is that there is no such thing as being young," Moffitt said during spring camp. "You know, you step up and you play and that's it. We don't have the luxury of sloughing off to excuse that you're a young guy."

The Rising Star: Konz. Midway through spring ball, Oglesby was demoted to second string right tackle. A lot of that had to do with Oglesby's individual performance up to that point, but it also had plenty to do with the way Konz was progressing after redshirting his freshman year on campus.

"A world of difference," Konz said in regards to his development as a freshman. "Obviously being on scout team, I got all the work in with the first defense last year so that just helped with my basic technique with footwork (and) where to place my hands."

Though Oglesby regained his confidence and reclaimed the starting spot heading into fall camp, Konz will likely be there nipping on his heels throughout August.

The Rookie: Frederick. As one of the most intelligent players on the offensive line, Frederick showcased his talent during spring ball as well. As one of the early enrollee's on campus last spring, Frederick displayed his knack to quickly learn the offense and pick up on several assignments and schemes that he needed to fulfill. There is no question the spring season did nothing but boost his confidence and advance his progression at a quicker rate. He will likely be a bit ahead of fellow newcomers Casey Dehn, Zac Matthias and Ryan Groy when they get to town next month.

Battle to Watch: Oglesby vs. Konz. At a certain point, it looked as though Konz was out-dueling Oglesby for the top spot at right tackle. Oglesby seemed to be playing without any sort of passion and looked passive when trying to block his defender. At this point in his career, it has been bit of an adjustment for Oglesby as he was always bigger than his counterparts in high school.

"I guess it's difficult for me because I've never had to have it," Oglesby said during spring camp in regards to playing with more intensity. "I've always been the biggest and strongest in high school and things like that."

When Konz surpassed Oglesby, it fired up the big sophomore who responded with one of the best practices of his career the next time out.

"(It's) just playing with that pissed off mentality," Oglesby said. "Not pissed at the coaches, but pissed at myself for letting it happen."

Entering August's camp, Oglesby will be the guy in the starting lineup, but with Konz pushing him, it will be interesting to see how both of them progress throughout fall camp and into the season.

Expectations: Everybody knows UW is going to run the ball. It has historically been the way the Badgers grind out games and get wins. If that remedy is going to continue to have success, this relatively young group will have to grow up fast.

It helps that all five projected starters, and several of the backups have had game experience, but now, they are no longer the replacements and have full responsibility for getting the job done. With such a talented backfield, the running game is a bit less worrisome than the passing game.

So, by the time the season begins, hopefully the offensive line and the quarterback have a solid chemistry that will allow time to make good reads and decisions and subsequent success to follow.

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