Wenger Having Time of His Life

Junior offensive center Dan Wenger took one for the team last year. After playing center for his entire football career, Wenger was moved out of need to offensive guard for the Irish this past fall where he saw his first minutes of action. Wenger was thankful just to get on the field.

"I was just happy to be playing," Dan Wenger said of his first real action last season, even if it was at a new position. "I gave me experience, and experience is everything."

Irish offensive line coach John Latina said the valuable time Wenger picked up at a different position last season will benefit him a great deal at his best position, offensive center.

"Even though Danny started for us at right guard last year, you have to understand that he was a center all of his life," Latina said. "Since it's been a natural position, it's been an easier transition for him. He's been around for a couple of years, and he's been around, what I think was a good center in (John Sullivan).

"I think he had a chance to really sit and learn, and watch the guy approach the game. I think a center has to approach it a little bit different than most linemen because they're really the quarterback of the whole offensive line. They're controlling all five—that whole unit as one. He's been good over the last two years, even though we had him at guard, we did work him at center as a backup, so he was getting reps at that and managing our system, and I think he's done a nice job with that."

"I think it's good when players learn the big picture," Latina added. "I think it's good when he had to learn to play guard. I think it's helped him even more in the center position."

"It feels a lot more comfortable," Wenger said of moving back to center. "That's where I played all high school so I'm just happy to be back there and ready to get this season off on the right foot."

In order to get off on the right foot the Irish offensive line will have to start playing nasty football again. Head coach Charlie Weis spoke of a his team getting off to a fast start at media day last Friday, and Wenger said both playing with intensity and getting off to a fast start are vital to good line play.

"That's what a winning line is going to be. It's going to be nasty," he said. "It's going to be all five guys playing until the whistle and getting into people and getting after people. That's what we need, and that's what we're turning into."

The former USA Army All-American also has the responsibility of making all the line calls this fall, and he said there's quite a bit more to know than he had to know in high school.

"There's not as much line calls in high school. In high school you primarily just learning your one position and doing your job," he explained. "We have to learn the whole concept and understand what everyone's doing. I have to learn what my guards are doing, and what the tackles are doing on certain plays so I can make certain calls and do certain things appropriately to make the play successful. I think I've got it down now."

Wenger did his part in the weight room as well this off season adding 18 pounds to the 284 he was listed at last season. Now over 300 pounds, the Coral Spring, Fla. native says he feels the extra strength and his experience last year will help him on the field this season.

"I feel a lot stronger," said Wenger. "It's definitely helped. I think the most important thing is just getting game experience. Just having that previous experience to learn from your mistakes and grow from that.

"When you get that game experience you get a little more confidence each day. It's not you're a young guy getting in there and playing kind of timid. You've been there before. It's kind of second nature, and you've got your guys who have been there with you. They've been along for the ride. You're just excited to play with them and get better with them."

The Irish start hitting officially on Tuesday as the team will be in full gear for tomorrow's practice, but Wenger says that there has been plenty of popping going on without pads.

"We've been hitting since the first day," he said with a smile. "It's been fun already. It's always fun. I love going out there and practicing and competing."

Before the junior lineman can get after opposing defenses this season he'll have to revisit some friendly competition he has with some teammates on the opposite side of the football—something he really enjoys.

"It's always a rivalry, whoever I'm going against," he said. "It's just friendly competition. Me and Ian Williams, we battle a lot, especially since he's playing the nose guard. That's who I'm primarily going against, and we get into some battles."

And Wenger loves it best when the Irish start up the "Irish Eyes Drill," which will also begin starting tomorrow.

"It's just one-on-one, going right at each other, hitting, all out," he said.

One thing the Irish offensive line will have going for them this fall is continuity. This unit has played together for quite some time, and everyone should be in one position for most of the season.

"Working with the guys next to me every day, each day we get a little bit better and better," Wenger explained. "At a certain point, I don't want to say that I'm worried, but you know your guy is next to you and he's going to get the job done."

The Irish O-line also has become a closer unit after last year's experience. Wenger is all smiles when he speaks of the fun he has with his fellow line mates.

"I think we've grown a lot as far as a whole group," he said. "Everyone is more close and buddy-buddy. That's really what you need. If you're close off the field, then you're going to gel together on the field and be able to play together.

"When you've got a great bunch of guys to hang out with off the field, great guys to play with on the field, it creates a situation where football is fun. This is probably the most fun I've had in doing anything."

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