uw football

UW football offensive line preview: New kids, coach on the block

2012-08-02T05:00:00Z 2013-07-17T17:13:48Z UW football offensive line preview: New kids, coach on the blockTOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

The University of Wisconsin football team lost two All-Americans on the offensive line.

It must replace three linemen who signed with NFL teams.

So, what else is new?

Right guard Kevin Zeitler and center Peter Konz were UW's latest All-American linemen and both went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. In addition, right tackle Josh Oglesby signed an NFL free agent contract.

It's similar to a year ago, when left tackle Gabe Carimi and left guard John Moffitt — both All-Americans — went in the first three rounds and top reserve Bill Nagy went in the seventh.

"It happened two years ago ... and we didn't have a bad year, obviously," senior left tackle Ricky Wagner said of last season. "I think we're used to it because of the way we practice. We all practice like we're going to start, because you never know."

The big difference this year is the coach is gone, too. Of the six assistants who left following last season, offensive line coach Bob Bostad leaves some of the biggest shoes to fill. He was regarded as one of the best line coaches in college football and he ruled with an iron fist.

Konz was only partially joking when he said Bostad, now the line coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was so effective "because we're all afraid."

UW coach Bret Bielema pulled off a coup when he landed a veteran, respected coach in Mike Markuson, who spent the previous 14 seasons coaching offensive lines in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Markuson came highly recommended by athletic director Barry Alvarez, who was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame in 1989 when Markuson was a graduate assistant.

How will Markuson, whose style is more low key, put his imprint on the program while building on the tradition that came before him?

"That's a great question, it's one I thought about," he said in the spring. "Following a guy like Bostad, (or) Jim Hueber, some of the great offensive line coaches, I've watched this program for years with coach 'Alvie' and now with Coach B.

"You've just got to pick up the baton where they left off. You've got to do your thing, you've got to coach your way. You believe what you believe in."

The linemen spent the spring working through the changes and getting used to Markuson.

"It was a nice change, after having coach Bostad for four years," Wagner said. "It was kind of hard at the beginning, just getting used to the way (Markuson) does practice, the way he coaches.

"I think we're coming along. I'm excited, it's nice to see a new face."

One of the best things for the current line turned out to be dealing with the dislocated left ankle suffered last season by Konz, which caused him to miss the three games prior to the Rose Bowl. That allowed three-fifths of the current line — Wagner, left guard Ryan Groy and center Travis Frederick — to get used to playing together in pressurized environments, including the Big Ten title game.

Groy spent a half against Illinois as Konz's replacement before Bostad moved Frederick from left guard to center and put Groy at left guard. Frederick, a junior, has strengths different than those demonstrated by Konz, but should be one of the top centers in the Big Ten Conference.

"He's going to be more the 'get low, ground-and-pound' kind of guy," Konz said. "I was always known for my pulling and athleticism. As far as getting everybody on track and getting the calls out, they will not skip a beat."

Wagner is an All-America candidate and a projected early pick in next year's draft.

Groy, a junior, was happy to call one position home in the spring after moving around earlier in his career.

Sophomore Rob Havenstein sat out most of the spring following shoulder surgery, but played enough last season that right tackle is not a major issue.

That leaves right guard and a lack of depth as two pressing concerns. When Casey Dehn left the team recently due to academic issues, it impacted both areas. He could play guard or tackle and was in the mix to start at right guard.

Finding a capable right guard should not be an issue for a program such as UW's. Candidates include senior walk-on Robert Burge, sophomore converted defensive lineman Kyle Costigan and sophomore Dallas Lewallen, who missed last season with a dislocated kneecap.

The line got a ringing endorsement from senior running back Montee Ball, who said he expected it to be better than last year's based on the weight room work over the summer.

It won't be easy, but that's the challenge at a place such as UW, where the faces change, but the standards never drop.

"I think it's exciting, to make this O line stand out over the ones before us," Wagner said. "It's the next challenge, to make your name."

Badgers offensive line overview

KEY LOSSES

Right guard Kevin Zeitler and center Peter Konz were

All-Americans and among three starters to depart, along with right tackle Josh Oglesby.

BURNING QUESTION | Who will start at right guard?

This might be one of the most competitive position battles in camp, with a variety of players who could eventually find their way into the mix. Burge, a walk-on, was the starter at the end of spring and figures to get the first shot. But the player who lines up for the opener against Northern Iowa is anyone’s guess. Costigan moves well and showed promise in the spring, but he’s a converted defensive lineman who is extremely raw. Lewallen has potential but has missed more than a year with a knee injury. If nobody from that group seizes the job, it could come down to a young player such as Marz, Ball or Voltz.

PLAYER TO WATCH | Rob Havenstein

He has started only one game, but due to Oglesby’s knee problems last season, Havenstein received extensive playing time in mop-up duty in several games. He missed valuable practice snaps in the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. But he’s a big man with the foot skills of a smaller player. Oglesby was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection despite his knee issues. But Havenstein will provide more mobility and a big upside if he develops as expected.

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