There's something significant to be said for a successful positional program on a football team. Peter Konz came into Wisconsin as only the 38th-ranked offensive tackle in his class. Kevin Zeitler was the 22nd-ranked guard.
Now, the two are poised to be Top-50 picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
That's no accident. Wisconsin has one of the best track records in college football for identifying and developing top-level offensive linemen, and that's a long-standing tradition at the school. And now Zeitler's going to go from one of the best mashers in Madison to a likely starter down the line for one lucky NFL team.
Zeitler's one of the best blockers in the league in terms of understanding positioning and leverage. He almost never gets moved out of position or off-balance, and his ability to seal and move blockers has been integral to the Wisconsin rushing game's success over the years. Give him a defender to block, and he'll do it.
Also, one of Zeitler's best qualities is his technique as a pulling guard. Watch Wisconsin's frequent use of him coming across and blowing up the point of attack in the red zone to lead the way for Montee Ball, and his combination of efficiency of movement getting to the block and then pure strength in executing the block. That's technique, talent and experience all coming together.
Where Zeitler struggles, and what might keep him out of the first round, is pure athleticism. Zeitler's never going to have to run 40 yards in a dead sprint, in all likelihood, but the fact that his 40 time was just a hair under 5.40 seconds underlies his lack of open-field ability.
His movement off out of his stance isn't especially fast, and he's going to encounter some trouble with staying in front of the more agile defensive tackles in the NFL when it comes to pass-blocking.
Nonetheless, Zeitler is basically a heavier version of those vaunted Denver Bronco linemen of a decade ago, who had such superior technique and understanding of their offense that their size (all under 300 pounds) wasn't a disadvantage. Zeitler is a perfectionist on and off the field, and there isn't a blocking scheme in the entire NFL that'll be a struggle for him to pick up on.
Zeitler is the type of guard you can reliably run behind, and that's an asset in the NFL. If he can improve his open-field blocking and ability to keep smaller defenders engaged at the next level, he'll be a steal for whoever takes him.
Mock drafts currently have him going anywhere from 24th to 45th.
And the Wisconsin offensive line juggernaut rolls on.