Patrick Kasl has made it a point that he wanted to be more aggressive this season. Not only did he want to finish plays and help clear holes in the run game, he wanted to improve on his pass protection – a weakness of his last season. Kasl was able to display the improvements on Friday in the 28-3 loss to Stillwater that made it clear he was one of the better players on the field.
One of the team’s three captains, Kasl was able to consistently overpower his opponents at times to help pave the way for 192 rushing yards on 42 carries. Although the Rangers had success running the ball when it wasn’t towards Kasl side, the Rangers’ offense was only able to get into a rhythm when they made an emphasis to run towards Kasl.
On the only scoring drive by the Rangers in the second quarter, the offense rushed for 78 yards, as Kasl was able to pave the way for Forest Lake. Despite back-to-back false start penalties, Kasl helped dig the offense out of a first-and-20 by opening up runs of seven, eight, and four to set up a fourth-and-1. Deciding to go for it, it was no surprise the offense got an 8-yard gain running behind Kasl.
Over the next three plays, Kasl was responsible for 25 of the 26 yards, opening up runs of nine and 16 yards before the Rangers had to settle for a field goal.
“Obviously there’s still a lot of growth left for him,” Wilson told BadgerNation of Kasl’s ability to run block. “They will continue to teach him when he gets to Wisconsin, and he’s a very smart kid, as he’ll pick stuff up pretty easily. I just think his aggressiveness this year and confidence in his skills really changed. He realized that he can handle whoever they put in front of him, which made it easier for him.”
There was one play that Kasl was able to take on two defenders, managed to knock down both simultaneously and was able to keep playing to help the tailback pick up a fresh set of downs. On the play Kasl showed how effective he could be when he gets the better leverage up front, as the play drew an applause from the crowd.
“I don’t think he realized his potential as a junior,” said Wilson. “One thing I think that helped him a ton is that he joined wrestling as a heavyweight. I think he finally realized what he can do with the body that God blessed him with and what kind of talents he has. He did really well as a heavy weight. I think that just translated into his play this year.”
It was expected that Kasl would dominate on the offensive line against an undersized defensive line with no player listed above 6-2, not to mention only two weighed above 280 and one at 335. It would have been concerning if Kasl didn’t consistently dominate, especially when he weighs about 100 more pounds then the guy he’s lining up against.
With Stillwater in control of the game going into the second half, it forced the Rangers to pass more often and take Kasl’s strengths out of the game, as he continues to improve upon his pass blocking. Kasl was flagged once in the second half for holding after getting beat off the ball at the snap. It’s evident that Kasl is more comfortable run blocking versus pass blocking.
Forest Lake didn’t ask Kasl to pull a lot in the game but there was one play in the second half where he lost his footing on the wet grass and couldn’t help the running back get to the second level. Despite the slip, Kasl showed the necessary speed to hint that he can be effective pulling in the run game if he continues to add the proper strength.
One concern I had was how his conditioning would be considering he plays both sides of the ball and doesn’t take many plays off. From what I saw that wasn’t the case, as he consistently played to the whistle and his motor was consistently running. Wilson said after the game Kasl is rotating in on the defensive line due to a lack of numbers at the position.
“He takes up another blocker because teams are going to have to double team him,” Wilson said. “He’s very quick off the ball, which is a huge benefit. If teams want to leave him one-on-one he’s probably going to beat that guy, but it forces a problem for the opposing offensive line.”
Wilson will receive emails from the Wisconsin coaching staff saying how much they are looking forward to getting him on campus and wishing Kasl luck before each game. Those emails lead Wilson to believe that the Badgers have high expectations for his prized pupil.
After seeing him play on Friday, it is not surprising to hear that Wisconsin is excited for the future of Kasl, as he was able to demonstrate a lot of positives from his game. His ability to run block is impressive, as he quickly gets off the line of scrimmage to engage the blocker. He finished the game with three pancakes. Although Kasl plays too high at times, that can easily be corrected by Joe Rudolph.
It is natural for game programs to exaggerate the height and weight of their players but Kasl looks to be accurately listed at 6-6 but his listed weight of 290 pounds might be slightly inflated. Even so, he seems to be in good shape and it was clear that he worked hard this past offseason in the weight room.
With Wisconsin set to graduate four scholarship offensive lineman over the next two seasons, it will allow Kasl a chance to redshirt to add good weight and strength to his frame. He will likely be ready to compete for a starting job by either is redshirt sophomore or junior year.
“I think the ceiling is as high as he wants to go,” Wilson said. “He has a great opportunity over at Wisconsin. As far as I’m concerned he’s the best lineman in our conference that I’ve seen, and I think he will really develop under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin.”