Wisconsin Football: How Does the Badgers' O-Line Stack Up Against Nation's Best?
Got flashy receivers? Keep 'em.
Diva quarterback? Not interested.
Spotlight-hogging cornerbacks? Try somewhere else.
At the University of Wisconsin, the offensive lineman is the star of the show. Madison is one of the few places where they reserve rock star status for the perennial unsung heroes of the gridiron, and the trenches double as a pedestal.
Success is a double-edged sword, though, as the Badgers lost stalwart linemen Peter Konz to the draft as a junior. Other inexperienced players will get their first taste of prime time and will test the unit's "next man in" mentality. The predictions and pre-season rankings have begun to hit mailboxes and inboxes, and it seems the Badgers have a steeper mountain to climb in 2012.
Regardless, the "Big Uglies" are ready for their close-up.
Conquer the Conference
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Tom Dienart of the Big Ten Network hit the nail on the head when describing the Wisconsin line legacy:
Death, taxes and the Wisconsin offensive line excelling. Those are three sure things in the life.
The only problem is that he ranked the Badgers behind Michigan State.
Experience seems to be the main difference according to his analysis, but experience is a relative term at Wisconsin. The team has a fondness for shuffling its formations to the point where every one gets a turn almost everywhere. Guards play center, tackles fill in for guards and the line continues to steamroll.
Dienart touts the Spartans' ability to protect against edge rushers, but the Badgers should be able to do the same with a move-able mountain named Rob Havenstein, who towers over opponents at 6'8" and 345 pounds.
High on the Tide
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The Alabama Crimson Tide are enjoying a golden era, on all sides of the football.
Their name is found near or at the very top of many pre-season unit rankings, including Bleacher Report. In his article, featured columnist Danny Flynn named the Tide the best line in all the land, and with good reason.
Led by Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, Alabama's front five helped pave the way for Richardson to run for 1,679 yards last year, and they only gave up 17 sacks in 13 games.
The same article listed the Badger unit outside the top 10, sitting on the 13 spot. Analyst Phil Steele would likely agree as he slotted three Tide linemen as first-team All-Americans. Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner was also considered a first-teamer, and center Travis Frederick found his way onto the third-team list.
While no one doubts the Tide will be a major force once again, Montee Ball probably would not trade anything after running for 1,923 yards last year behind the cardinal and white squad.
New Blood in a Storied Bloodline
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Linebackers seek out Penn State gear while running backs puff out their chests in Texas. Receivers flock to Miami and Michigan State while quarterbacks look to Berkley and USC.
Offensive lineman smile when the see Wisconsin.
As a school predicated on its line play, elite recruits have begun to gravitate toward Madison. One of those prospect will be true freshman Dan Voltz who many believe will see significant playing time.
Long-tenured line coach Bob Bostad left Wisconsin for Pitt and promptly left Pitt for a stint with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Replacing him will be a tall order but line veteran Mike Markuson is now in charge of the team's legacy unit.
It doesn't matter what the names on the back of jerseys will say in 2012, Wisconsin is all about the line. And this year's unit looks prepared to keep that bloodline strong for years to come.