Quarterback Scott Tolzien is used to seeing Bill Nagy's face in the huddle, but it's hard to predict where it might pop up next.
Nagy opened the University of Wisconsin football season as the starting right guard, morphed into a third tight end and has filled in lately at center, where he will start on Saturday against Indiana.
"(Nagy's versatility) is really something you take for granted at times," Tolzien said. "The great thing about him, he goes about his business and kind of flies under the radar, but it's pretty special what he's been able to do this year."
Coach Bret Bielema paid tribute this week to the super subs on offense, who have helped the Badgers survive a daunting stretch of injuries to key players in critical games.
The group includes Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen at tight end, who have filled in for Lance Kendricks; Montee Ball at running back, filling in for backup James White and possibly starter John Clay this week; and Nagy, who took over in the second half of the past two games at center after Peter Konz twice aggravated a right ankle injury.
The Big Ten Conference usually becomes a war of attrition in November and the 8-1 Badgers are surviving with the help of some proficient backups.
"That just says a lot about how we practice, just a high-intensity practice and the twos getting reps and everybody filling in and just playing hard," Nagy said.
It also doesn't hurt to have backups the caliber of Nagy, a fifth-year senior who was a projected starter going into last season before a scary scooter accident caused him to miss almost the entire season with wrist and foot injuries. Left guard John Moffitt, who lives with Nagy and Tolzien, said it's still freaky to consider what happened to one of his best friends.
"I was thinking about it the other day, Bill got hit by a car," Moffitt said. "How many people can say that?
"Just the way he has recovered and fought back, it has not been easy. It's a physical battle but it's also a mental battle, too. It has been really impressive."
Nagy, from Hudson, Ohio, started the first four games at right guard after junior Kevin Zeitler missed most of preseason camp with an ankle injury. Zeitler, who started every game last season following Nagy's accident, slowly worked his way back into the lineup, sharing time at first, then taking over full-time against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener.
That's when the coaches made Nagy the third tight end, a formation that has enjoyed success — and not just in short-yardage situations. When the coaches really want to get physical up front, Nagy takes off his customary No. 76 jersey and wrestles on No. 89.
"I think it slims me down a little bit," the 318-pound Nagy said of the higher number. "That's what I've been told, at least."
Moving to tight end is not easy for somebody used to the interior of the line. The athletes are better out there and they are usually in space, making them harder to block.
"The angles are different and there are a lot of times where Bill will be blocking on an island," Moffitt said. "The (defender) has got a two-way go. Bill has to take him where he's got to go. It's not an easy job."
The same could be said of hopping in at center in the second half against Iowa, the first real playing time Nagy had in a game at that position. Other than an errant shotgun snap against the Hawkeyes, Nagy has played well. With his wrist injury last year, he didn't get much work at center. The most extensive practice time he gets at the spot is in the spring.
The Badgers could move Moffitt to center, where he has started 15 games. But that would require two position changes. Nagy has worked on his shotgun snaps enough in practice where it's not an issue anymore.
"I'm just happy the coaches have faith, that they can put me in there," Nagy said. "That means a lot, too, they have a lot of trust they can plug me in wherever."