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July 30, 2010

Fall Camp Preview: Offensive line a team strength

Being an offensive lineman is like being a plumber. You do all the dirty work that people need done even though not many realize your efforts until something goes wrong.

When the Wisconsin offensive line reconvenes in a couple of weeks for fall camp, though, there will be plenty of people taking notice. Then again, it's hard not to pay attention when they five guys up front stand 6-foot-5 and weigh well over 300 pounds across the board.

With all five starters from a season ago returning, as well as a couple of backups that have starting experience, this Badger offensive line has the means necessary to not only match it's success in 2009, but also do bigger and better things in 2010.

WHAT WE KNOW: Depth shouldn't be an issue

You could throw Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Travis Frederick, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby on the starting line and still have Bill Nagy, Peter Konz and Ricky Wagner left to discuss.

In short, the offensive line is stacked.

All five starters listed above played, and did so at a high level, as starters a season ago. And their resume speaks for itself.

John Clay rushed for over 1,500 yards, scored 18 touchdowns and claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was a beast on his own, but he'd be the first to tell you that the offensive line was the key component to his success.

Not only is the offensive line experienced, it is also incredibly versatile. Moffitt has proven he is worthy at left guard, but he made his first move as a center. Zeitler is a pit bull that is athletic enough to play either guard spot. Konz can play center after coming off blood clots, or he could play the other two inside spots.

Wagner should just be tabbled Mr. Versatility because he has been moved around more than a shopping cart at your local grocer. He is finding a home at left tackle, but is serviceable at any spot on the line, except for maybe center.

A season ago the offensive line was pretty bruised and battered to start the season as both Nagy and Moffitt suffered their respective injuries. Now, with both healthy, and with the rest of their cohorts up front, the competition should be high throughout fall camp.

And should the injury bug resurface, chances are there will be a viable replacement waiting in the wings.

BIGGEST QUESTION ENTERING CAMP: Where does Nagy fit in and can he push for a starting spot?

Just before fall camp started a season ago, Nagy suffered a very sobering moped accident that left him injured for the majority of the 2009 season. His foot never reached a point where he could be fully confident in its durability.

Now, entering his final season on campus, Nagy is healthy and motivated to make a move as a starting lineman. He is so determined to play, that at points last season he had discussions with head coach Bret Bielema about moving to the defensive side of the ball. He wants to be on the field.

At this juncture (and obviously things can change) it seems unlikely for Nagy to reach starting status. He would most likely have to supplant Zeitler or Moffitt at the guard spots. And anyone following Badger football knows that Moffitt is an All-Conference player and Zeitler isn't too far behind.

But then again, that's what camp is for. It grants guys a chance to impress to the point that the coaches have to play them. It will be interesting to see how Nagy handles the load with his health back on his side.

FRESH FALL CAMP FACES: Dallas Lewallen, Robby Havenstein and Kyle Costigan

While most of these fresh faces will likely redshirt and take a year to develop, the pieces for the future of the offensive line are in place. All four players possess typical Wisconsin offensive line size and are strong, with Costigan potentially being the strongest of the crew.

When the likes of Moffitt, Carimi and Nagy exhaust their eligibility, it wouldn't be too shocking to see one, or multiple, newcomers move up the depth chart. They will get that chance starting this fall.

EARLY CAMP PREDICTION

This is a make or break year for Oglesby. After being called out by his head coach following April's spring game, Oglesby needs to arrive at camp with a fire lit under him and use that to develop a mean streak. Judging by Bielema's comments, it seems as though Oglesby may not be irreplaceable at right tackle. If somebody were to step up and perform at a higher level during August, Oglesby may be on the sideline in September.

Of course that's all conjecture at this point, but that's what makes August such an important month. Those questions are typically answered.

































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