There is no hiding from the headlines, it seems, when you’re running the football for the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
James White, Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball, John Clay, PJ Hill, Anthony Davis, Michael Bennett … The list goes on.
What will also go on is the list of Badgers offensive linemen who’ll make it to the next level, often times without the accolades that goes along with running the football behind them.
“Seven or eight guys deep is what they are,” head coach Gary Andersen, said, of his offensive line. “They’ve worked like crazy, and I’m proud of them. The challenge is to keep moving in that direction and recruit a good hard nosed class this year with fairly large numbers on the offensive line to keep the tradition going.”
Here are just a few who did it right at Wisconsin.
2012 NFL Draft – First round: Kevin Zeitler, G, Bengals — 16 starts, All-Rookie selection. Second Round: Peter Konz, C, Falcons — nine starts.
2011 NFL Draft – Third Round: John Moffitt, G, Seahawks — 17 games, 15 starts. Seventh Round: Bill Nagy, C, Cowboys — four games, now with Lions.
2009 NFL Draft – Third Round: Kraig Urbik, T, Steelers — waived by Pittsburgh; 26 starts for Bills from 2011-12; signed four-year, $13.3 million deal.
2007 NFL Draft – First Round: Joe Thomas, T, Browns — 96 straight starts, six Pro Bowls, three-time All-Pro.
2003 NFL Draft – Second Round: Al Johnson, C, Cowboys — missed 2003 (knee); played 48 games for Dallas, 14 for Cardinals, four for Dolphins, waived by Patriots in 2009.
2001 NFL Draft – Third Round: Casey Rabach, C, Ravens — 137 games, 118 starts in 10-year career that ended in 2010.
2000 NFL Draft – Seventh Round: Mark Tauscher, T, Packers — 134 games, 132 starts in 11-year career that ended in 2010.
And what makes the Wisconsin-style offense something that highlights the offensive line position so much? According to Gary Andersen it’s the number of people they try and account for on every offensive play.
“A lot of the plays that we run, there’s six or seven blocks that have to take place. We can never forget about the fullback and forget about the tight ends when we’re talking about that; that those guys have done a tremendous job all year long,” he said. “So I think it is a little bit (the offensive linemen) are on a little higher stage on having to get their blocks because the number of blocks that have to take place every snap for our scheme to be able to work. Even the simple power play, it’s a down scheme and a kickout scheme, but it’s not that easy. It’s not just saying we’re down and we’ll kick out and we’ll get six yards a carry. There’s a lot that goes into that.”
And it’s not just the starting five across the front, but the one and two deep behind them who’ve shown the readiness to come in on the fly, and not always at their top position.
“These kids have done a nice job of practicing the right way and staying up, which you never know, it doesn’t happen, so it’s a great thing,” Andersen said. “But if you don’t practice right and the guy falls when he shouldn’t fall or what have you, then you’ve got issues on your hands.”
“But these kids have taken care of their bodies. They do it week in and week out. I guess the next man up, which this team has done so many times this year, in a very positive way, would fit this team, unselfishness, would fit that group. Unselfishness would fit that group also.”
Andersen said his center, Dan Voltz, is a perfect example.
“We all know at the beginning Dan was doing very well and had the starting center position kind of locked down, and then guys came back off of injury,” Andersen said. “He ended up getting the hamstring tweak in the scrimmage and didn’t play and then came back and started a game, and he started this last week. He’ll probably start again this week.”