April 8, 2010

Offensive line developing a mean streak

MADISON - Off the field, offensive linemen are typically some of the most jovial and happy-go-lucky guys on a football team. They are usually more than friendly and have a good sense of humor about them.

Between the lines, though, a switch flips and those same comical or outgoing players off the field become fierce, nearly savage, enforcers on it.

It's simply what comprises their job description.

Having that mean streak about you, whether referring to an individual or a collective unit, is essentially controlled chaos.

"Before you can have a mean streak, you have to have your head on right," UW sophomore center Peter Konz said. "You have to know what you're doing. Then you can be aggressive. When we do get a mean streak, it's really good."

When looking at successful teams over the years on any level-be it Miami of the late 80's and early 90's, the Patriots of the 2000's or any high school dynasty of your choice-chances are the offensive line was a notch above feisty.

For Wisconsin, as its spring camp begins to wind down, it seems like the 2010 season could be one that features a mean and nasty offensive line.

First of all, all five starters from a season ago are back in the fold. Gabe Carimi, one of the better left tackles in the entire county, has returned to practice and looks dominant.

John Moffitt, a center turned left guard, is also back and easing back into his role after his recovery from hernia surgery. At center, though Konz is sidelined throughout spring camp, the Badgers are deep with Travis Frederick and Jake Current manning the middle.

On the right side, Kevin Zeitler is the living definition of bulldog at the guard position and Josh Oglesby-the biggest lineman on the team-seems to be developing a bit of an aggression about his game that hasn't necessarily been present throughout his time on campus.

In short, all the pieces are there for this offensive line to be something special, to be something opposing defenses dread going against.

"I think the only thing stopping us is ourselves," Oglesby said after a recent spring practice. "I think we can play with anyone in the country and I think we kind of showed that last year, at least certain glimmers of it.

"Only time will tell."

Oglesby, one of the most prized recruits in recent Badger history, has had a personal battle throughout his career with aggression. At times, it seemed as though he was a little less physical than his imposing body would suggest.

However, at least through nine of the team's 15 allotted spring practices, it seems as though the once gentle giant is becoming more of a forceful entity at the right tackle position.

"That's good to see when he does that," Konz said. "That's kind of the next level we want to get to. Just have everybody get kind of a mean streak and we can start rolling."

A perfect example of said mean streak happened before the team left campus for its spring break recesses. In Carimi's first day back to full participation in practice, that mean streak was put on display.

After a sweep play was run to the exact opposite side of the field, most of the attention was quickly directed away from the ball carrier and to the ensuing wrestling match between Carimi and J.J. Watt.

The scrum, though nothing came from it such as an injury, alerted both the offensive and defensive side of the ball that the big nasties up front were taking every play like it was a crucial third down attempt late in a ball game.

"I like when our guys get into a little bit of a scrum," Konz said. "It's football, so you're going to have a little bit of tension. You've got two big guys like that that kind of want to prove their dominance. It's good to see and it really strengthens the team.

"You get the strength of the defensive line trying to yell at the offensive line and the offensive line yelling right back at him. It really creates bonds that way."

It also sets a precedent that the offensive line is going to get their job done and that nothing is going to stand in their way. At least that seems to be the mentality.

Because as we all know, with the talent returning on this unit, it could potentially be one of the best lines that has ever come through the program.

"If everyone keeps working and everyone gets their job done it could be a very good line," Zeitler said. "We've just got to keep working every day and not get satisfied and listen to coach Bob Bostad.

"We'll see how it goes."

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