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Friday, August 20, 2010
Wisconsin O-linemen not reading labels

By Adam Rittenberg

John Moffitt liked my suggested nickname for Wisconsin's offensive front: The Thick Red Line.

"That's a good one," the Badgers' All-Big Ten guard said, laughing. "I like that a lot, yeah!"

Moffitt has heard plenty of other submissions as Wisconsin approaches the 2010 season.

John Moffitt
John Moffitt (74) is one of five returning starters on Wisconsin's offensive line.
"Someone came to me and said the Red Shed, which I thought was pretty clever," he said.

Moffitt enjoys the nickname ideas, but there's one description he and his linemates are trying not to read: Best Offensive Line in College Football.

The label is being used a lot by preseason forecasters, and for good reason.

Wisconsin returns all five starters up front, including two first-team All-Big Ten selections in Mofftt and left tackle Gabe Carimi, who already is being pegged as a likely top 20 pick in April's NFL draft. Despite some health issues, the line performed very well in 2009, as Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring (31.8 ppg), rushing (203.8 ypg) and total offense (416.9 ypg). The line paved the way for tailback John Clay to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors.

The Badgers are very big, very physical and likely deeper up front, as guard Bill Nagy returns to the mix and center Peter Konz has recovered from blood clots in his lungs. Injuries throughout 2009 forced Wisconsin to use quite a few linemen in games. The payoff should come this year.

For those reasons and more -- Wisconsin's history along the offensive line speaks for itself -- the B-word can and should be used when describing the Badgers' front five.

Just don't mention it to players.

"That's a dangerous thing to let settle into your head," Moffitt said. "It can make you rest on your laurels more. That's not something we're trying to repeat to each other or even something we're trying to mention."

Line coach Bob Bostad plays an important role in snuffing out any signs of overconfidence. According to Moffitt, the line started training camp a bit rusty, and Bostad "never misses an opportunity to correct a guy; doesn't matter if he's a senior or a freshman."

Chemistry shouldn't be a problem with Wisconsin's experienced group, and neither should complacency.

"At O-line, it's not just handed over to you," Moffitt said. "Despite the experience and the accolades, we still have to continue working."