NCF Nation: Josh Oglesby

Every year, it seems like a Wisconsin offensive lineman emerges to become an All-American.

Two years ago, John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi earned All-America honors. Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler did the same in 2011. If it happens again this year, a guy who knows as much about computers as he does football seems like the smart bet.

[+] EnlargeTravis Frederick
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireJunior Travis Frederick will be counted on to hold up the Badgers' offensive line in 2012.
Junior Travis Frederick started at left guard for the Badgers last year before Konz got hurt against Minnesota. Midway through the Illinois game the next week, Frederick slid over to take Konz's spot at center after Ryan Groy had some snapping problems. Frederick stayed there for the win over Penn State and the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, and Wisconsin didn't miss a beat without Konz, whom many project as a first-round NFL pick next month.

Frederick could assume Konz's former role on a full-time basis this season. That's mostly where he's been working out during winter conditioning drills, though he'll likely also see time at guard when Wisconsin opens spring practice next week. Wherever he ends up, Frederick knows the bar has been set awfully high by previous stars on the Thick Red Line.

"All we can do is hope to carry on what they left behind," Frederick said. "Obviously that's a goal of mine, to be able to play at a high level and get that sort of recognition, because that means you're helping your team. Whether or not I get that individual recognition, I'm going to do what I can to help the team, be it at center or guard or wherever it is."

Frederick believes one reason for the robust tradition at Wisconsin is that offensive linemen have always been able to look up to strong leaders. When he was a freshman, he followed the work habits of Moffitt and guard Bill Nagy. Konz and Zeitler helped set the standard last season. This year's O-line group is young, with Ricky Wagner and Robert Burge the only seniors. And since Wagner, the lone upperclassman with any starting experience, is a quiet guy by nature, Frederick has worked this winter on his leadership skills.

"Ryan Groy and I are trying to take over and be a little more vocal," he said. "We're just helping the group along with the transition we've been faced with."

Replacing three starters — all-conference tackle Josh Oglesby also graduated — isn't the only transition the Badgers' big uglies face. For the first time in their careers, they will have a new position coach in Mike Markuson after Bob Bostad left to join Paul Chryst's staff at Pittsburgh. There's also a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada, and the players are eager to see what changes are in store for them.

"It's been kind of odd for all of us because we haven't really had a playbook yet," Frederick said. "Some of the stuff is just starting to trickle down and some of it is just starting to get set in stone. So for us, it's kind of a waiting game of, when will we get this new stuff so we can try to learn it?"

But head coach Bret Bielema has promised the offense won't look much different, and why would it? Wisconsin has had one of the most successful and consistent offensive attacks in the country, led by its powerful line and running game. While quarterback remains an uncertainty heading into spring and possibly summer, Montee Ball is back for his senior season after leading the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns.

"That meant a lot to us that he came back," Frederick said. "It told us he trusted the offensive line to help him continue to get good numbers."

Frederick has earned the trust of the coaching staff over his career. He was the first true freshman offensive lineman ever to start an opener for Wisconsin when he lined up at center against Northern Illinois in 2009. He took a redshirt year in 2010 when the Badgers were stuffed with talent on the line and came back last year to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is one of the strongest players in the program, having reportedly squatted 730 pounds with a 500-pound bench press last year. He may also be one of the team's smartest player, challenging himself with a double major in computer engineering and computer science. You might expect to find a man his size at the buffet line, but he spends much of his time away from football in the computer lab.

"I always wondered how computers worked," he said. "To think that everything in a computer comes down to electrons and electricity flowing through wires is really kind of amazing to me. To figure out how it works and understand it down to a semiconductor transistor level is really very interesting."

Frederick's recent class projects have included writing programs for operating systems and designing an integer divider coprocessor.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said.

We'll have to take his word on that. But the idea that Travis Frederick can become the next star on the Wisconsin offensive line certainly does compute.

B1G combine contingent gets to work

February, 22, 2012
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The NFL scouting combine kicks off today in Indianapolis, and 45 Big Ten players will be part of the most scrutinized job interview in sports.

Here's the full schedule of events. The first set of interviews take place Wednesday, and position group workouts take place from Friday-Tuesday.

Here are some of the Big Ten storylines at the combine:

    [+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
    Chuck Cook/US PresswireRussell Wilson needs to convince teams that his less-than-ideal height won't hold him back at the next level.
  • The quarterbacks are always a story in Indy, and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins will be representing the Big Ten. Wilson's biggest obstacle is his height, and he'll have to show he can throw over the top of massive linemen and make all the throws. He won't lack for motivation. Cousins had a strong showing during Senior Bowl week. He wants to put himself in that second group of quarterbacks behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. A strong combine performance could be the difference between being a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder.
  • Can Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy solidify himself in the first round? Worthy has moved around the mock drafts quite a bit during the past few months. There are obvious pluses to his game, namely his brute strength and ability to clog rushing lanes and drop quarterbacks. But some have questioned his motor and whether he takes too many plays off. He'll be under the microscope in Indy, especially from a conditioning standpoint.
  • The combine will be huge for Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who saw his stock drop during Senior Bowl week and missed the game because of a hip injury. Huskers coach Bo Pelini has called Dennard the nation's best cornerback, and he showed shutdown skills at times last season. But he has some work to do to get back in the first-round picture.
  • Remember Jared Crick? I ranked him as the Big Ten's No. 1 player entering the season, but he played in only five games before being sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle. Crick needs to show he's healthy and that he can thrive when not playing alongside Ndamukong Suh.
  • It will be interesting to see which Big Ten offensive linemen can boost their stock in Indy. Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff doesn't have much to prove and should be the league's first player drafted in April, but it'll be interesting to see how Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Wisconsin tackle Josh Oglesby, Illinois tackle Jeff Allen, Ohio State tackle Mike Adams and others perform. Konz certainly could be the first center drafted, while many project Adams in the first round. Oglesby is among the players trying to prove they can hold up after dealing with several knee injuries with the Badgers. Brewster's stock dropped at the Senior Bowl, and he finished the season as the Big Ten's No. 3 center after entering the fall as a preseason All-American.
  • Michigan State running back Edwin Baker surprised some by declaring for the draft. His production dropped off significantly in 2011, although Michigan State had some issues along the offensive line. Still, Baker needs a big performance in Indy to impress the talent evaluators.
  • Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey appeared in only three games as a senior because of suspension. He has the physical gifts to be an effective pro wideout, but he'll need a strong week before the scouts in Indy. Evaluators also will be trying to assess his character after some off-field missteps at Ohio State.
  • The combine is all about numbers, and Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin might post some huge ones this week. Martin, one of the strongest players in college football, is bench pressing 505 pounds and squatting more than 700. Stephen Paea's combine record of 49 reps of 225 pounds could be in jeopardy. Martin should finish among the leaders in his position group in several categories.

Spring preview: Leaders Division

February, 17, 2012
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After taking a look at the Legends Division outlook for spring practice, it's time to turn the focus to the Leaders Division.

Away we go ...

ILLINOIS

Start of spring practice: March 7
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New faces in new roles: Tim Beckman and his assistants get their first chance to work with the players on the field. Beckman retained only one assistant (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore) from the previous staff, so it'll be important for the players and coaches to get acclimated. It's also a big spring for co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty, both of whom will be primary playcallers for the first time at this level.
  • The quarterbacks: Nathan Scheelhaase is a two-year starter, but he'll have to re-establish himself as the team's top option at quarterback. Reilly O'Toole received a decent amount of field time last season, and Illinois should have a competition under center in spring practice. Both men will have to learn a new offense and show good decision-making skills after combining to throw 12 interceptions last fall.
  • No Merci: All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus is gone, and Illinois will be looking for his replacement this spring. The defensive line could once again be a strength for the Illini, especially with Gilmore back and an aggressive defensive coordinator in Tim Banks. It'll be interesting to see how the coaches use Michael Buchanan and Justin Staples, who played the "bandit" position in the previous scheme and boast speed but don't have typical defensive end size.
INDIANA

Start of spring practice: March 3
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Juco fever: Indiana needs a quick fix on defense, and it hopes an influx of junior college players can provide one. Six juco players already are enrolled and will participate in spring practice, including five on the defensive side. It will be interesting to see how players such as defensive back Tregg Waters and linebackers Justin Rayside and Jacarri Alexander perform this spring as they compete to play right away.
  • New direction on offense: Coach Kevin Wilson wants to be more productive in the passing game, and he hired an offensive coordinator in Seth Littrell who can help in that area. Littrell guided an Arizona offense that last season ranked third nationally in passing (370.8 ypg) and 27th in pass efficiency (145.2). He'll try to help Tre Roberson, who Wilson said he thinks can elevate his game significantly as a passer despite throwing twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three) as a freshman.
  • Who has grown up: Indiana played 32 freshmen (16 true, 16 redshirt) in 2011, the most in the FBS. The early experience should pay off for several players, and Indiana needs them to grow up quickly during the spring. Roberson showed a lot of promise at quarterback, and safety Mark Murphy finished second on the team with 76 tackles. Keep an eye on players such as defensive end Bobby Richardson and receiver/returner Shane Wynn.
OHIO STATE

Start of spring practice: March 28
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Urban renewal: The mood has improved around Ohio State's program from the moment Urban Meyer stepped to the podium Nov. 28. After putting together his staff, signing an elite recruiting class and ticking off some of his Big Ten coaching colleagues, Meyer finally gets a chance to work with the players on the practice field. After a lackluster final season at Florida in 2010, Meyer says he's refreshed and recharged, and it'll be interesting to see how he attacks practices.
  • The new offense: Ohio State fans can't wait for a new offense after suffering through a 2011 season that featured some extremely questionable play-calling. Meyer's offensive system is well-known throughout college football, but the interesting thing this spring will be how Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman blend their ideas. Herman is a dynamic young coach who impressed a lot of folks at Iowa State. But Ohio State is a different animal, and expectations will be high for quarterback Braxton Miller and the unit.
  • Fickell back on defense: After spending last season as Ohio State's head coach, Luke Fickell returns to an assistant role on the defensive side. And for the first time, Fickell will be the Buckeyes' primary defensive playcaller. Ohio State's defense took a step back last season and will be looking to regain its traditional form. Fickell will work alongside co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers and look to identify some leaders to complement defensive lineman John Simon.
PENN STATE

Start of spring practice: March 26
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • O'Brien's time: Much will be made of Penn State opening spring ball without Joe Paterno, but the real story is how critical these practices will be for new coach Bill O'Brien and his team. Penn State will be acclimating to new systems on both sides of the ball and a new coaching style from O'Brien and his assistant coaches, all but two of whom are from the outside. The learning curve will be accelerated for all involved, as Penn State needs to get a lot done in 15 workouts.
  • The quarterbacks: It's good that O'Brien has extensive experience coaching quarterbacks because no position needs a bigger upgrade at Penn State. The Lions struggled mightily under center last season and need a major boost beginning this spring. Can O'Brien get more out of Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden, both of whom have seen extensive time in the Big Ten? How does Paul Jones factor into the mix? It'll be interesting to see how the signal-callers perform this spring.
  • Filling gaps on defense: Penn State should have one of the nation's best linebacker groups this season, but the Lions need to fill some holes on the line and in the secondary. Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still departs, and Penn State will be leaning on Jordan Hill and others to step up. A bigger concern is the secondary, which loses two multiyear starters at safety (Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay). Penn State also has a new defensive coordinator in Ted Roof, who will be looking for better results than he had at Auburn.
PURDUE

Start of spring practice: March 7
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Another quarterback competition: Boilers coach Danny Hope loves having options at quarterback, and he'll once again get his wish during spring practice. Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve,Rob Henry and Sean Robinson all boast starting experience and will vie for the No. 1 job when workouts resume. Henry, who sizzled last spring and would have started the season if not for a torn ACL, has been cleared to participate in noncontact drills. Marve received an extra year of eligibility and will be in the mix. TerBush started every game last season.
  • Tisebar takes over: Purdue has a new defensive coordinator for the third consecutive season, as Tim Tisebar takes over this spring. Tisebar returns to college football after spending the past three seasons with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes. Hope hired Tisebar to help Purdue improve against the spread offense and the zone-read game. It will be interesting to see what spin Tisebar puts on the defense as the Boilers enter a pivotal season.
  • Offensive line depth: One of Purdue's strengths last season is a bit light on bodies following several departures. The Boilers need a left tackle to replace Dennis Kelly, and they also must increase depth on the interior line. Purdue already has moved tight end Robert Kugler to center, and Hope said earlier this month that several other tight ends could practice at offensive tackle during the spring.
WISCONSIN

Start of spring practice: March 17
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • A revamped staff: Bret Bielema hired six new assistant coaches during the winter months, including offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The new coaches will have their first opportunity to work with players on the field this spring. It's important for both sides to acclimate, mainly because Wisconsin has had tremendous success the past two seasons and doesn't want the staff shakeup to throw things off course. Quarterback Russell Wilson made a seamless transition to the program last summer. Let's see if the new assistants can do the same in spring ball.
  • The quarterbacks: Speaking of Wilson, he departs Madison, leaving a major void under center. Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips are coming off of major injuries, and while they're both making progress it could be tough to get a gauge on them this spring. Canada will spend much of his time working with Joel Stave and Joe Brennan, who need to get comfortable with Canada's adjustments to the offense and start establishing themselves as potential team leaders.
  • Reloading up front: Wisconsin will have to replace two All-American offensive linemen for the second consecutive year, and the Badgers lose three All-Big Ten selections up front (Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby). While the Badgers are built to reload, offensive line coach Mike Markuson has a lot of evaluating to do this spring. On the defensive line, Wisconsin loses two starters (Patrick Butrym and Louis Nzegwu) and will be looking for some difference-makers. End David Gilbert returns to the mix after missing most of last season with a broken foot.
We’ve already taken a look at what the recruiting needs were for the Atlantic Division. Let’s shift our attention to the Coastal Division. Here’s a look at where each school’s biggest holes will be in 2012 or are anticipated to be in the near future:

DUKE


Offensive skill positions: After last year’s rare class that didn’t include either a quarterback or running back, both positions are needed in this group. Quarterback Thomas Sirk -- the MVP of the 57th annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic last December -- has already enrolled in school while Shaquille Powell -- a PARADE All-American running back from Las Vegas -- has committed to the program. In addition, with David Cutcliffe’s offense, wide receivers and tight ends also are a priority.

Kicker: Will Snyderwine, who earned first team All-America honors as a junior before struggling through a sub-par season in 2011, graduated, but Duke has a commitment from Ohio native Ross Martin, considered the No. 2 placekicking prospect in the country by ESPN.com.

Safety: With the transition to a 4-2-5 alignment that utilizes three safeties, this becomes an annual point of emphasis. The Blue Devils lose All-American Matt Daniels to graduation.

GEORGIA TECH


Defensive line: This is the most glaring need in the current class. The Yellow Jackets have to replace senior starters Logan Walls (DT) and Jason Peters (DE), but return Izaan Cross (DE) and solid backups T.J. Barnes (DT), Emmanuel Dieke (DE) and Euclid Cummings (DE). The Jackets are expected to sign about 18 players in this year’s class, and five of them should be defensive linemen.

Wide receiver:This is another glaring need after the departures of Stephen Hill, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft, and Tyler Melton. Darren Waller and Jeff Greene, who both played last season as true freshmen, have lots of potential, but the position still needs depth.


MIAMI

Defensive backs: There’s still a lot of depth with this group, and the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque helps, but the Canes have to replace two starters in the secondary and have six commits in the current class to help do that.

Defensive line: The Canes have to replace Adewale Ojomo, Micanor Regis, Andrew Smith and Olivier Vernon from last year’s two-deep. The defensive end position was a particular focus in this class.

Receiver: This position lost a lot with the departures of Tommy Streeter, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. Allen Hurns is now the veteran of the group, along with redshirt senior Kendal Thompkins. There are five receivers currently committed in this class.

Quarterback: Beyond Stephen Morris, Miami has a lot of questions at the position and not a lot of experience. True freshmen Gray Crow and Preston Dewey are already on the roster, along with redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams.

NORTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: This is one of the biggest areas of concern after the departures of Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell.

Receivers: Larry Fedora’s offense will make good use of this group, but he needs to replace standout Dwight Jones.

Linebackers: This group was thin to begin with in 2011, and now the Heels need to replace outgoing senior Zach Brown. Kevin Reddick is now the main man.

Safety: UNC will have to replace two starters in Matt Merletti, Charles Brown and Jonathan Smith, so this position will have to be rebuilt for the future.

VIRGINIA

Defensive back: This should be the main priority in this class. The Cavaliers will lose four DBs, including two starting safeties in Rodney McCleod and Corey Mosley, and standout cornerback Chase Minnifield. They’ll also miss Dom Joseph, who came in for the nickel packages. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is suddenly the veteran of the group.

Offensive line: The Hoos will have to replace their starting center and left guard. Redshirt freshman center Cody Wallace could get a promotion, and sophomore right guard Luke Bowanko started in the bowl game. They’ve got some big bodies waiting in the wings, but they’ll have some questions to answer here this spring.

Kickers: This position needs to be rebuilt, as the Cavaliers lose Robert Randolph, who finished sixth all time in scoring at UVa, kickoff specialist Chris Hinkebein, and four-year punter Jimmy Howell. The position is wide open heading into the spring.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: This one is a no-brainer, as the Hokies have lost four players here in the past two years. David Wilson and his backup, Josh Oglesby, were the latest to depart, and Tony Gregory just had ACL surgery and is out for the spring. The staff likes Michael Holmes, who redshirted last year, and J.C. Coleman enrolled last week.

Receiver: The Hokies will miss Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and next year’s class has three seniors in Dyrell Roberts, D.J. Coles, and Marcus Davis. The future of the position is young, and the staff is still going after several uncommitted players pretty hard.

Defensive line: This year’s class already includes at least five committed defensive linemen, and the Hokies will be particularly thin at noseguard. They had some players graduate early who didn’t play a lot, but at least provided depth.

Linebacker:The Hokies have four committed, and are still chasing another just to build the depth. The staff missed on some recruits at this position last year and would like to make up for it in this class.
WilsonAP Photo/Andy ManisAfter transferring from NC State in the summer, Russell Wilson quickly became a leader at Wisconsin.
LOS ANGELES -- When Wisconsin landed in Southern California last week, the team went straight to Rose Bowl Stadium. The view was very familiar for most of the Badgers after playing in last year's game against TCU.

For Russell Wilson, however, the sight was something new. Though one of his strengths as a quarterback is his ability to keep an even keel at all times, Wilson couldn't help but muse about his interesting path to Pasadena.

"He told me, 'Coach, a year ago I was in an NC State locker room, then a professional baseball locker room and now a Rose Bowl locker room,'" head coach Bret Bielema recalled.

Around this time last year, Wilson was leading NC State to a win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. Wisconsin wasn't even on his radar. The story from there is well known, as Wilson played minor league baseball in the offseason, was given an ultimatum by Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien and eventually used the NCAA's graduate transfer rule to wind up with the Badgers.

Now, the Richmond, Va., native ends the saga on one of college football's grandest postseason stages.

"When I grew up on the East Coast, my dad always would say, 'It would be special if you would play in the Rose Bowl,'" Wilson said. "And in the back of my mind I thought, 'Yeah, it would be awesome. But there's no chance of me playing in it.' It's amazing how things come full circle."

Wilson's greatness is all but taken for granted now. He completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 2,879 yards, with 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season. He has a chance to set the single-season NCAA record for passer efficiency rating with a solid game against Oregon on Monday. Wilson leads the nation with a 191.6 rating, just ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III's 189.5 mark. Hawaii's Colt Brennan held the record going into this season with a 186.0 rating in 2006.

But such success was hardly guaranteed coming into the season. Wilson didn't arrive in Madison until the summer, and there were major questions about how quickly he could learn a new system and adapt to all new teammates at a position that demands leadership.

"You're learning a foreign language, and he learned it," Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "I think he understood everything when we started camp, and I think camp gave him a chance to make it become more second nature. And that only happens by working at it and being exceptionally bright to be able to grasp all that."

Wilson said he expected to understand the playbook quickly. His biggest challenge was trying to remember all the new teammates he'd met.

"I'm not very good with names," he said.

That appears to be one of his few weaknesses. Wilson set records at NC State despite having a poor supporting cast on offense. He flourished with the help of the Badgers' standout offensive line and high-powered rushing game led by Montee Ball.

Wisconsin's play-action passing game presents a nightmare for defensive coordinators as they have to respect the run but somehow not give up passing or scrambling lanes to Wilson. He might stand only about 5-foot-11, but Wilson can do just about everything athletically you'd want in a quarterback.

"He shows great poise under pressure," Oregon defensive back Eddie Pleasant said. "He makes a lot of good plays on the run when he has pressure in his face.

"I was impressed to see how short he is. Watching him on film, he flings the ball 50 yards on the run. To see him in person, wow. I can't believe he throws the ball like that."

Physical gifts are only part of Wilson's story, though.

Bielema couldn't have known what kind of leader he was getting when Wilson transferred. It spoke volumes when teammates voted him a captain in the preseason after only a few weeks with the program. Wilson justified that by helping keep things together after the heart-wrenching back-to-back losses this season to Michigan State and Ohio State. If not for the two last-minute, game-winning passes by the Spartans and Buckeyes, those games might have been remembered for how Wilson rallied the team back from deficits in the fourth quarter.

"I think Russell Wilson is best when people around him are at their worst," Bielema said. "He really does make great players play well in difficult situations."

That trait might prove invaluable on Monday. There are few more pressure-packed venues than the Rose Bowl, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if the Badgers have to fight through adversity with the way Oregon can score quickly. Wilson doesn't have a lot of postseason experience; his only other bowl game besides last year's Champs Sports was a 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl loss to Rutgers in which he got injured early.

But he did come through in the Big Ten title game, and those around him say he embraces the spotlight moments.

"I expect nothing less than absolute poise and professionalism from him," left tackle Josh Oglesby said. "He just exudes confidence in the huddle. This is his opportunity to play on a big stage for the first time, and I think he's going to thrive off it."
LOS ANGELES -- Outside the Wisconsin locker room is a wall full of plaques honoring the school's All-Americans. Guard Kevin Zeitler walked past that every day last offseason dreaming of hanging his picture up there next to John Moffitt, who earned All-America recognition last year.

Zeitler was lightly recruited until late in his high school career and had never even made an All-Big Ten team. But after an outstanding senior season, he now has his own spot on that wall.

[+] EnlargeKevin Zeitler
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireAll-American Kevin Zeitler was a member of an O-line that helped Wisconsin lead the Big Ten in scoring.
"We have a lot of pride in our offensive line here, and all of us want to live up to expectations," he said. "And I guess when you live up to expectations, that equals All-Americans."

Churning out offensive line talent may just be the state of Wisconsin's No. 1 industry at this point. Last year, Moffitt and tackle Gabe Carimi were named All-Americans. Both of them and guard Bill Nagy were drafted by the NFL and started as rookies. That exodus would decimate some programs. The Badgers simply reloaded with two more All-Americans in Zeitler and center Peter Konz.

The offensive line has been the program's signature position since the days of Barry Alvarez. While linemen at most schools are an anonymous bunch, the Badgers big fellas become stars, as evidenced by how many interviews the starting linemen gave at Friday's Rose Bowl media day.

"There's just something about that Wisconsin tradition," guard/center Travis Frederick said. "If you're from Wisconsin, you almost want to grow up and be a Wisconsin offensive lineman. And if you get a chance to play at Wisconsin, you take that chance."

The only thing more remarkable about the Badgers size on the line -- the starters measure an average of 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds -- is the fact that every key contributor is from the state of Wisconsin. Whether they were stud recruits like left tackle Josh Oglesby and Konz or a former walk-on like Ricky Wagner who gained 70 pounds after arriving on campus as a tight end, they all seem to develop into some of the best linemen in the country. Maybe it's all that cheese in the Dairy State. Milk apparently does a big body good.

But it's more than just the Scandinavian stock or whatever accounts for all that homegrown size. A standard has been set.

"You look back, and you see Gabe Carimi, and Joe Thomas, both Outland Trophy winners," Konz said. "You've got Chris McIntosh. You've got a lot of guys that you really have to live up to.

"You've got to live up to the strength standards, the weight standards. You've got to live up to the knowledge that they had about the game. We pride ourselves on being extremely smart, understanding blitzes, understanding formations, and really being on target so that we can be as successful as possible."

A major factor in Monday's Rose Bowl will be whether Oregon can handle that offensive line. The Ducks are bigger and better up front defensively than many people think, especially at defensive tackle with Taylor Hard (6-6, 283) and Wade Keliikipi (6-3, 300). Still, outside of Stanford and USC, Oregon isn't used to seeing lines like Wisconsin's. Because there aren't many.

Oregon's defensive players are downplaying any beef disadvantage in the trenches.

"They've got huge offensive linemen just like Stanford," said defensive end Brandon Hanna, whose Ducks have manhandled the Cardinal in recent years. "We're not too worried about that. Size doesn't bother us."

The Rose Bowl will mark the end of an era of sorts for the Wisconsin offensive line, as position coach Bob Bostad is moving on to Pittsburgh to join offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. He oversaw the development of four All-Americans since 2008. Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph will take over the group once Bostad leaves. Rudolph was an All-Big Ten guard for the Badgers.

"He's got a lot of pride in the position because he played it," Zeitler said. "To see what he's done with all the tight ends who've gone on to be All-Americans here, you know he knows how to coach. So it will be a new personality, but I believe the production will stay the same."

The names and faces may change, but Wisconsin keeps adding plaques to the wall.
When they paint the end zones at Rose Bowl Stadium, they might want to consider a second coat. Because there's a pretty good chance Oregon and Wisconsin could end up trampling lots of colored grass under their cleats.

On paper, at least, this matchup has the potential to surpass the record 80 combined points that Iowa and Washington put up in the 1991 Rose Bowl game. The Ducks average a little more than 46 points per game, while Wisconsin is just a hair under 45 points a contest. Each team has scored at least 50 points four times this season and has broken the 45-point barrier seven times.

Bowl games between a pair of high-scoring teams are nothing new, of course. What sets this one apart, though, is how radically different both styles are and how difficult each may be for the other to slow down.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin Badgers' offensive line
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin's big and athletic front line opened holes for Montee Ball all season.
"The great thing about this matchup is it's kind of like the direct opposites of offensive philosophy," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "Obviously, Chip [Kelly] and Oregon like to score at a very rapid rate, and we like to hold the ball and score as often as possible for the most amount of time. It's a very unique situation, and something that we're excited about."

Boil the contrast down to the essence, and you have Oregon's warp-speed spread attack versus the Badgers' Midwestern brute force. It's not nearly that simplistic, but for the purposes of the next couple of paragraphs, let's follow that narrative.

The Ducks would like to snap the ball before the officials remove the pigskins from the equipment case, if that were possible. They try to hit you with as many plays in a short amount of time as the laws of physics allow. Oregon has 41 touchdown drives this season that have lasted two minutes or less and 13 that have taken less than a minute. Their last-place FBS ranking in time of possession is a source of pride.

Even though the Big Ten is more familiar with 21st-century offenses than casual fans believe, nothing in its league can quite prepare Wisconsin for what's coming.

"We've seen some spread offenses like Michigan that used to be like that," Badgers defensive end Patrick Butrym said. "But they didn't move nearly as fast. It's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it."

Wisconsin doesn't have Phil Knight or flashy uniforms, and the team's main offensive strength -- its offensive line -- isn't exactly sexy. But the Badgers can be equally effective, as Kelly knows from watching some Big Ten games during pregame breakfast on the West Coast.

"It just seems like it's a pinball number sometimes when you're watching Wisconsin games," Kelly said.

And the offensive line provides the paddle. The front five is massive at an average of more than 320 pounds per man, and that doesn't include the fullback and tight ends that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst often employs to bludgeon people with the ground game. Wisconsin averages nearly seven minutes of possession per game more than Oregon and has had 11 scoring drives of five minutes or more this season.

But it's not just size that overwhelms opponents. The Badgers' big uglies are shockingly athletic, and defenses often aren't ready for that until a guard pulls and plows open a gaping hole for star running back Montee Ball. Just as teams can't adequately simulate Oregon's speed, they can't exactly find scout-teamers who can duplicate Wisconsin. Kelly said that while the Ducks have faced beefy, pro-style attacks from Stanford and USC, those Pac-12 teams don't also have a high-caliber back such as Ball.

"People know what we're going to do, but a lot of teams don't see our style of offense very often," left tackle Josh Oglesby said. "That's an advantage that allows us to really go after guys early and confuse them with some sets. We've got power and we really move. The way we do it, you don't see too often."

The offensive philosophies aren't complete opposites. If Oregon were merely a finesse team, it wouldn't be averaging a nation's best 6.5 yards per carry. LaMichael James may be a smaller back at 5-foot-9, but he's no fun to bring down. Wisconsin doesn't just plod away; with the dynamic Russell Wilson at quarterback, it has a dangerous play-action passing game that can occasionally quack like a Duck.

"When you look at our offense, it's unconventional in its own way," Wisconsin defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. "We've got some quick-strike ability with our quarterback and Montee Ball. We can score from anywhere on the field, also; it's just in a different way."

Projected high-scoring games often disappoint. Just look at last season's BCS games involving these two teams. According to statistics, the Oregon-Auburn BCS title game and the Wisconsin-TCU Rose Bowl matchup should each have been played in the 40-point range. The combined point total for both games: 81.

Something about this feels different, though, probably because the contrasting styles could give each side fits. Better apply that second coat of paint in the end zones just in case.
Wisconsin defensive end Patrick Butrym couldn't watch "SportsCenter" for about a week last January. He stayed away from any websites that covered college football.

Butrym was so upset by his team's 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day that he just had to ignore any mention of it.

"I really had a difficult time coping with it for a long time," he said. "I never did really put it behind me. It still bothers me. It bothers us."

Luckily for him and the Badgers, they have a chance to do something about it on Jan. 2. Rarely does a Big Ten team reach consecutive Rose Bowls. Since 1980, only four other teams have done so -- Michigan 2004-05, Wisconsin 1999-2000, Michigan 1992-93 and Michigan 1989-90.

[+] EnlargeTank Carder
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesLast season's Rose Bowl loss to TCU is a painful memory to the Wisconsin Badgers.
Back in Pasadena for a second straight year, this Wisconsin team vows to do things differently this time around against Oregon. It wasn't so much that the Badgers played terribly against TCU; they had a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes, but Scott Tolzien's pass on a two-point conversion try was batted down. Some players just felt as if they could have focused a little harder in bowl preparation, and maybe that would have put them over the top.

"Nobody really knew what to expect last year," safety Aaron Henry said. "A lot of us were going to L.A. for the first time, and there were a lot of distractions. It's Hollywood. We were living in Beverly Hills in an extremely nice hotel. When we got off the plane, I'm sure some guys were in shock."

Remember that even though TCU was the odd duck in last postseason's game as a non-AQ team, the Horned Frogs had played in a BCS game the year before. None of the Badgers had ever been on that stage before. The Rose Bowl is the mecca for Big Ten players, and with all the events and eye candy associated with the game -- Henry gushed this time last year about meeting actress Meagan Good -- it's easy to see how concentration can lapse.

That shouldn't be as much of an issue this year.

"Being there a second time has kind of eliminated that deer in the headlights effect," offensive tackle Josh Oglesby said. "We've seen all the lights. We've seen all the glitz and glamour that goes on with the Rose Bowl. It's more of a been there, done that mentality now. It's more of a business-trip attitude and we're not just happy to be there."

The Badgers will still try to enjoy the experience. They will do the usual events, like the Beef Bowl at Lawry's and Tuesday's arrival trip to Disneyland. Coach Bret Bielema said he'll take a group of players to a Lakers-Knicks game. Bielema is also altering the team's uniforms for this game as a reward.

Bielema said he's going to hold shorter, crisper practices in California to better hold the players' focus.

"With the second trip coming back to back, you try to change up a few things that maybe we did from a year ago, not only practice-wise but also some of the stuff we did away from the field," he said. "We're staying at a great hotel, get a lot of neat opportunities that come about just from being able to be in L.A., so you try to maximize that for the kids as well. ... But when it's time to work, I need you to work."

Bielema said running back Montee Ball is one of the team leaders, making sure that everyone maintains a business attitude. Ball, who was tackled from behind on a 40-yard gain in the game's first play last postseason, used the Rose Bowl as motivation for his offseason workouts. He lost about 20 pounds and responded with a monster season that included a Big Ten rushing title and 38 touchdowns.

A lot of Wisconsin players have stories like that. Butrym remembers turning to a teammate immediately after the TCU loss and saying, "We have to get back here next year." When the team lost back-to-back heartbreakers to Michigan State and Ohio State, the goal of getting back to the Rose Bowl helped keep spirits up.

Oregon has similar motivation after coming up short in the 2010 Rose Bowl against Ohio State and losing the national title game last postseason to Auburn. Some Wisconsin upperclassmen have experience with postseason atonement. The Badgers lost the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl to Florida State before returning to the same game to beat Miami a year later.

They hope to repeat that history in a bigger bowl. Or else they could be facing another long offseason of regret.

"Any time you're right there in reach of having success and then it slips away, it's a feeling you don't want to go through as an athlete," Henry said. "Winning this game would be the icing on the cake for us. And it's no good to eat a cake with no icing on it."

Pregame notes

October, 1, 2011
10/01/11
5:46
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BLACKSBURG, Va. -- There are plenty of streaks on the line today in this game, and the ACC will have one less undefeated team when it's all over.

Virginia Tech has won 12 straight ACC games, and Clemson has lost five straight to the Hokies. Which streaks will survive?
  • If Clemson is going to snap its losing streak, it will have to play better run defense. Virginia Tech tailbacks David Wilson and Josh Oglesby have combined for 10 of the Hokies' 11 rushing touchdowns this year.
  • If Virginia Tech is going to extend its ACC winning streak, the Hokies defense will have to adjust quickly to Clemson's up-tempo offense. The Tigers ran about 30 more plays than Florida State last weekend and wore the Noles' defense out.

You could debate who needs this win more, but consider what a Clemson win would mean for the ACC: It would be the first time an ACC team has defeated three straight ranked opponents.
Wisconsin had few surprises on its Week 1 depth chart, starting with the quarterback position.

NC State transfer Russell Wilson is listed as the Badgers’ No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, released Monday night. Sophomore Jon Budmayr, who has been battling elbow problems and could need surgery, is listed as the backup.

Wilson has taken most of the reps with the first-team offense during preseason practice, drawing excellent reviews from his coaches, teammates and media members allowed to watch the workouts. He started the past three seasons for NC State and was named runner-up for ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2010. Wilson threw for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns with 26 interceptions in his NC State career.

Wisconsin players voted Wilson a co-captain for the season even though the quarterback only joined the team in early July.

Other notes from the Badgers’ depth chart:
  • Josh Oglesby is listed as the starter at right tackle ahead of freshman Rob Havenstein.
  • Junior Shelton Johnson has won the starting strong safety spot after competing with Dezmen Southward throughout camp. He’ll play alongside Aaron Henry.
  • Sophomore Ethan Hemer is listed as a starting defensive tackle ahead of classmate Jordan Kohout.
  • Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie are listed as co-starters at cornerback opposite All-Big Ten selection Antonio Fenelus. Smith entered camp with the inside track for the job but has been pushed by Cromartie, a talented junior.
  • Two other co-starters are listed: running backs Montee Ball and James White (no surprise) and kickers Philip Welch and Kyle French (bigger surprise). Welch is a three-year starter who coach Bret Bielema still likes to push in practice. Listing French as a co-starter seems like one way to light a fire.
  • White also is listed as a starting kick returner with receiver Jared Abbrederis. Is this too risky with the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year? Perhaps, but Wisconsin could use White’s speed as it replaces David Gilreath.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- In an effort to learn more about his players, Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer had each of them fill out a general form about where they’re from, their family, academics, and their hobbies and interests.

David Wilson filled out the latter with “acrobatics.”

“That was a first,” Beamer said with a laugh.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
Bob Donnan/US PresswireDavid Wilson will now get his shot at being the Hokies' primary back.
“Oh lord,” quarterback Logan Thomas said with a laugh when asked about Wilson. “He just has so much energy he doesn’t have a clue what to do with it.”

Beamer does.

Wilson, who claims to have once done as many as 20 back-flips in a row, runs a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash and is an integral member of Virginia Tech’s track team, will now get a chance to showcase his athleticism as the Hokies’ primary ball carrier. Following the early departures of record-setting running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams to the NFL, there are 10 fullbacks and running backs remaining on the roster, and only three of them -- Wilson, Josh Oglesby and Tony Gregory -- were recruited as scholarship players.

“I’ve heard of one player at a position leaving school early,” Shane Beamer said, “but in all my years, I’ve never heard of losing two guys like that with Darren and Ryan.

“It’s a concern,” Beamer said. “… For Oglesby and some of these fullbacks, it’s a heck of an opportunity for them. We’re going to have to cross-train some of the guys. Some of the fullbacks will have to know tailback and things like that. This spring is a concern and it’s major concern when you get into fall and we start playing games.”

Unless, of course, Wilson capitalizes on his potential and the depth behind him develops. He and Beamer watched a lot of film together of last season.

“As good as he was, and as electric as he was, I think there’s a lot of things that he can do better,” Beamer said. “We’ve talked about that.”

Going into this season, Wilson said he just wants the staff to know they have a “sturdy” running back.

“I definitely want to be the guy on the team where, if we’re in a tough situation, the coaches feel comfortable with having me on the field and know that I’m going to come through with a play,” he said.

Wilson has already made a name for himself with his game-changing plays as a kick returner, but this offseason he’s working on becoming a more complete back. Last season he was third on the team in rushing with 619 yards on 113 carries (5.5 yards per carry). He scored five rushing touchdowns, four receiving and two on kickoffs.

Not a bad start, but he knows the expectations are much higher this year.

“There’s only three scholarship running backs in there, and with me being the third-string last year, I’m definitely expected to be the man this year,” Wilson said. “I’m definitely ready. Since I put down my high school pads and picked up college ones I’ve been expected to have a strong role in college football. Now my opportunity is here. I have to take advantage of it.”
Wisconsin will be without its top returning receiver this spring as Nick Toon sits out following offseason foot surgery.

Coach Bret Bielema announced Monday that Toon, who ranked second on the team in both receptions (36) and receiving yards (459) last season, will be sidelined for the spring. The Badgers open spring ball Tuesday.

Toon, a two-year starter, missed three games in 2010 with turf toe and saw his production decline from 2009, when he racked up 805 receiving yards. He made the right call to return to Madison for his senior season and provides a proven target for Wisconsin's new starting quarterback.

The Badgers return two starting receivers in Toon and Jared Abbrederis, although they're looking for more options.

Bielema also said Monday that quarterback Curt Phillips and offensive tackle Josh Oglesby both will have limited participation in spring ball following knee surgeries.

Ryan Williams out for Saturday's game

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
5:16
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Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams will miss Saturday's game at NC State with a hamstring injury, according to the team's injury report released on Thursday. The Hokies will obviously need all of the help they can get to match NC State's offense, but if there's one team that can afford to miss a starting running back, it's Virginia Tech. With Darren Evans and David Wilson, the Hokies were able to beat Boston College 19-0. It doesn't matter who is running the ball, though, if they don't get the blocks and into the end zone. Here's the full report, along with NC State's injury report:

VIRGINIA TECH

Out

Kwamaine Battle (knee)
Eric Martin (knee)
Barquell Rivers (quad)
Lorenzo Williams (foot)
Ryan Williams (hamstring)

Probable

Josh Oglesby (ankle)
Eddie Whitley (stinger)

NC STATE

PROBABLE
James Washington, HB - hamstring
Markus Kuhn, DT - knee

QUESTIONABLE - None listed

DOUBTFUL - None listed

OUT
Brandon Barnes, RB - ankle
Jarvis Byrd, CB - knee
Sylvester Crawford, DE - knee
Mikel Overgaard, OT - elbow
*Jesse Riley, DB - knee
*Rashard Smith, DB - knee
* - out for the season
MADISON, Wis. -- Greetings from my favorite Big Ten venue, where No. 11 Wisconsin hosts a talented Arizona State team this afternoon (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

Wisconsin is looking for its first complete performance of the season after two somewhat watered-down wins. The Badgers haven't been as efficient on offense as they'd like, and the defense seemed to let down in the fourth quarter last week against San Jose State. Today also marks an opportunity for Wisconsin running back John Clay to put himself on the Heisman Trophy radar with a big performance against a Pac-10 foe. So far, I'm the only one beating the drum for Clay in the Heisman race.

Arizona State has beaten up on two FCS opponents (Portland State and Northern Arizona) and can make a statement today in a totally wide-open Pac-10 by knocking off a top-15 opponent. It will be interesting to watch Sun Devils quarterback Steven Threet lead the offense after seeing his struggles at Michigan in 2008.

Weather: It has gone from perfect last night to rainy overnight to gray this morning to pleasant right now with just some light clouds overhead. Rain is possible, especially later in the game.

Injuries: Wisconsin will play without starting wide receivers Nick Toon (turf toe) and David Gilreath (concussion). Walk-on Jared Abbrederis will get the start alongside Isaac Anderson. Ricky Wagner will start at right tackle in place of Josh Oglesby (knee), who might play. The Badgers also should have all their top linebackers on the field for the first time this year. Arizona State should get a boost along its defensive line as Toa Tuitea (elbow) and Corey Adams (knee) are expected to return.

I'll have more from Camp Randall throughout the day, so be sure and check back.
The position rankings move to the offensive side of the ball, and the offensive lines are first up. Several Big Ten offensive lines are among the nation's best, while other units boast experience but must step up.

[+] EnlargeGabe Carimi
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireThe Badgers' Gabe Carimi is entering his fourth season as a starter.
1. Wisconsin: If this group stays healthy, I don't believe there's a better offensive line in college football this season. Left tackle Gabe Carimi is a bona fide NFL prospect who enters his fourth year as a starter. The Badgers boast another All-Big Ten selection at guard in senior John Moffitt, who can play both guard and tackle. Josh Oglesby should be ready to take the next step at right tackle. All the injuries last season forced Wisconsin to use a lot of linemen, and Peter Konz's return makes this one of the league's deepest units.

2. Ohio State: The talent always has been there, and the physical play finally showed up late last fall. Ohio State's line finished 2009 on a very strong note and returns pretty much everyone for 2010. First-team All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren leads the group along with fellow guard Bryant Browning. Center Michael Brewster enters his third season as a starter, and right tackle J.B. Shugarts came along last year. If gifted left tackle Mike Adams effectively protects Terrelle Pryor's blind side, the Buckeyes will be extremely tough to stop.

3. Michigan: The Wolverines boast one of the Big Ten's best interior line tandems in guard Stephen Schilling and center David Molk, who returns from an ACL injury. When Molk was healthy in 2009, Michigan consistently moved the football. His return is a major boost. The Wolverines need to solidify the tackle spots but have experienced options in Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge. Michigan's offensive line recruiting also should pay off as redshirt freshmen like Taylor Lewan solidify the depth.

4. Penn State: The line had an average performance in 2009 and struggled against elite defensive fronts, but things should improve this fall. Stefen Wisniewski, who moves back to guard from center, is one of the nation's most experienced and polished offensive linemen. He leads a group that also features veterans Lou Eliades and Johnnie Troutman. Penn State needs big things from new starting left tackle Quinn Barham.

5. Northwestern: All five starters return from 2009, but there's competition at three spots in camp. I see this as a testament to Northwestern's strong O-line recruiting the past four seasons. While experience is great, the Wildcats need to be more physical in run blocking and could benefit from some new faces (or some old ones hardened by competition). Left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett are All-Big Ten candidates, and watch out for Patrick Ward, a heralded 2009 recruit who steps into the spotlight at right tackle this season.

Up next: Running back/fullback

More rankings ...

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