It wasn’t too long ago, University of Wisconsin sophomore Kyle Costigan was trying to make life miserable for the offensive guards he faced in practice.
Costigan, 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, was recruited as an offensive lineman out of Muskego High School.
But on his second day of preseason camp during his redshirt season in 2010, he was moved to defensive tackle due to a shortage of players at the position.
Costigan went into last season as UW’s fifth defensive tackle but suffered a broken foot in September and missed the rest of the year.
With a shortage of players in the offensive line this spring, Costigan was moved to guard. He missed all of winter conditioning and the first two weeks of spring drills before being cleared for practice. Last week was his first time back in pads in almost seven months, but he has looked at home in his new spot, impressing teammates and coaches.
“When he first came in, he was kind of hopping around like a D-lineman,” junior left guard Ryan Groy said. “We were like, ‘Slow down, man, quick hands, slow your feet down and you’ll get the hang of it.’
“He’s been burying people. Once he gets his hands on people, they can’t get off.”
That’s because Costigan is one of the strongest players on the team. He has been a devoted worker in the weight room, going back to high school when he set the school record in the bench press as a freshman.
“He’s an ox,” Groy said.
But Costigan also moves well, which he showed in his first practice back. On one play, he had to pull and block free safety Shelton Johnson in the open field, which Costigan executed perfectly.
“I was nervous, that was like my first time doing it,” Costigan said. “Actually, pulling is probably what I’m better at right now. I’m struggling with pass setting. It’s going to take some time to get used to that.”
Offensive line coach Mike Markuson said he likes Costigan’s “physicality.”
“When he gets into somebody, (he) can move his feet and drive block,” Markuson said. “He has tremendous intensity, he’s just learning how to play the game, learning how to play his position.
“I’m certainly glad we have him on our side. We need him. He has a good attitude.”
Costigan thinks his time as a defensive lineman helps.
First, he has a pretty good idea what the defensive tackles he’s facing are trying to do.
“I know what personally was the hardest thing for me to go against as an offensive lineman,” he said. “I know what defensive tackles are going to find the hardest (to deal with), so I try and use my knowledge from defense.”
He can also get inside a defensive lineman’s head simply by asking his roommates — defensive tackle Beau Allen and defensive end Konrad Zagzebski — for their thoughts.
“We kind of tease each other about going against each other every day,” Costigan said. “It’s nothing negative. It’s kind of fun, actually.”
Costigan said two years of doing defensive lineman drills have helped make him more explosive.
“Playing D-line, you have to be quick,” he said. “You try to be faster than the offensive lineman you’re going against. Doing all of the workouts with the D-linemen, working on your explosiveness and speed really helps my agility.”
UW coach Bret Bielema said recently four of the spots in the offensive line are fairly settled — once right tackle Rob Havenstein returns from shoulder surgery. That leaves right guard as the only open spot.
Costigan has been working with the second team at right guard, behind senior walk-on Robert Burge.
Despite his lack of experience at the position, if Costigan gets better in pass protection, he could battle for the starting job.
“It’s learning how to absorb a guy that’s coming at you full speed, striking him and sitting your rear end down,” Markuson said of pass blocking. “Trying to mirror the defender, (along with) twists and blitzes.
“Any movement, even in the run game, can be different for a guy like him. Seeing the reps in practice, take all the stuff he’s doing well and put that in the bank and clean up the bad stuff.”