BadgerNation: It seems like this spring was about Coach Joe Rudolph working the linemen hard at different positions to build depth. How did the group embrace that?
George Panos: We lost three big starters last year so a lot of guys have to step in. He’s trying different guys out at a couple different places. It’s all about finding the right fit and the right team that works together.
BN: Have you done a lot of work at center previously?
GP: Up through grade school I was always center. I played guard in high school but when our center got hurt I moved over for a few games. I worked it during my redshirt season, so it wasn’t much of a change.
BN: How much does it help going through scout team reps as the center for a year?
GP: I came in at guard but through a couple days in fall camp I moved over to center and guard, so I got a couple good reps off of scout team there. I’ve been working at center for a while now, so I am getting use to the position.
BN: Was it easy redshirting last season?
GP: Yes. I knew I wasn’t ready to play yet. Another year to get my body ready and my mind ready has definitely helped out because I am a lot more far along than I was a year ago.
BN: In what areas do you feel you have made the biggest strides?
GP: IQ is a big thing. I know what I am doing a lot better now. I feel I have gotten stronger and more athletic and gotten better in all phases.
BN: Where is the urgency for this group in the spring?
GP: We all know we have to get better. We have to improve. We lost three solid players, real good starters, so we’re trying to get better, compete with each other and be the best group we can be for next year.
BN: Where is your strength now compared to where you were a year ago? Do you feel a lot stronger as you go through drills?
GP: I feel a lot stronger, but I feel like my head was all over the place in fall camp. I felt that I didn’t know what was going on. Now I have gotten into the playbook, pay attention a lot in coaching meetings and my head feels a lot further along than it was a year ago.
BN: Has the playbook changed a lot from last year to this year with the new staff?
GP: Some things have changed and some things have stayed the same, but Coach Rudolph has done a great job easing us through the transition and taking time to explain everything. First it was hard but once you get the hang of it it’s not so bad.
BN: How has Coach Rudolph related to you guys since he was a former offensive lineman here? Does that get more respect in the room?
GP: We respect him a lot because he’s been there, done that, played here and played in the league. He’s part of one of the best teams Wisconsin has ever had (1994 Rose Bowl team), so we all have a lot of respect for him. He knows what he is doing and we take what he tells us without question.
BN: Are you semi-biased with that answer because your dad played with him on that team?
GP: Maybe a little bit (laughing).
BN: How much does it help having him around?
GP: Yes. He’s been through it all, too. Whenever I have questions or anything like that, he’s always there to guide me through.
BN: People get worried when a new coaching staff comes in that they are going to reinvent the wheel, but this staff appears like it’s going to be business as normal and it’s going to be a ground and pound style to a degree. That has to be something your group embraces?
GP: That’s something I am definitely noticed with the new coaches that it is Wisconsin football, big o-linemen run the ball downhill, take what the passing game gives you and have that three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style that Wisconsin has always had.
BN: Where do you want to get better over summer?
GP: I think my football IQ is getting better but I really want to hone in on my technique, hand placement and doing everything the right way.