One of the constants of a Bret Bielema offense at Wisconsin is the running game. Good heavens, the running game.
It's predicated on the (usually correct) assumption that no defense the Badgers will face can withstand four quarters of repeated mashing up the middle by a superior offensive line and an aggressive set of tailbacks. And should a team put eight or more in the box to counteract this attack, well, that's when the passing happens.
But it's the run, the run, the run that means the most to Wisconsin.
Of course, offensive line superiority is about more than just lining up in front of someone and drive blocking him (although it is certainly that too). It requires the most intelligence of any position outside of maybe quarterback.
The ability to correctly identify blocking targets against a shifting or unusual front is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of football, as an incorrect blocking read can spell disaster on any given play. Figure out who you're going to block, make sure it's not who anybody else on the line is going to block unless it's a designed double-team and then go mash him. Often, it's the center that makes these designations for the entire rest of the line.
It's the closest thing football has to chess-boxing.
The ringleader of these chess-boxers in the middle of the line this year is Wisconsin's Peter Konz, the top-rated center of the draft class. Konz is a truck of a man, unusually big for a center at 6'5" and 314 pounds. That size doesn't affect his mobility, though, as he excels getting to the next level or pulling to either side.
This mobility is also evident when he's scraping off a double-team block to get to a linebacker, though a zone-blocking team isn't going to utilize that skill very often outside of short-yardage situations.
Where Konz struggled at times is adjusting to quicker linebackers in space (though that's more of a general positional hazard than something specific to Konz), and his initial push off the ball isn't overwhelming.
He disappointed scouts at the combine with only 18 bench press reps at 225 pounds, but at Wisconsin's pro day he upped that to 23. Besides, footwork is more important for leverage with centers than pure arm work, and Konz's ability to get his hips around his defender for the seal block is as good as you can ask for from a center.
Furthermore, defenders have a very difficult time disengaging from his blocks, so even when Konz can't move the point of attack forward, he can neutralize his defender for the play and give the ball-carrier or passer more time to operate.
Konz is projected to the second round in terms of pure talent, but a team like Baltimore (who currently depends on 14-year vet Matt Birk at center) may not want to let Konz last through the end of the first round.
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