He has not won a single All-Big Ten honor and is, by and large, the least talked about starter on Wisconsin's offensive line. Very quietly, however, Jonathan Clinkscale has been a mainstay at right guard, starting 33 of the Badgers' past 35 games.
"He's a big anchor," right tackle Mike Lorenz said. "You can't say enough good things about Jon."
"He's not as outgoing in public as some of the other guys," offensive line coach Jim Hueber explained. "That doesn't have anything to do with his demeanor when he plays or how he is around his teammates. Guys that are outgoing in public, guys that are glib with the press usually get a little bit more press."
As the college football season turns to the spring combine season next January, plenty of people will be saying good things about Clinkscale. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound athlete may be quiet off the field and may not have received the decorations normally bestowed upon Wisconsin's best linemen, but Clinkscale currently stands as one the top rated guards for next year's NFL Draft.
It is early for this sort of thing, but Clinkscale is rated the No. 3 guard and No. 41 overall prospect by NFLDraftblitz.com and is widely considered one of the top 10 players at his position and top 100 college seniors in the country. At Wisconsin, only well-worn names like defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne and tailback Anthony Davis had NFL scouts drooling more before this season started.
"I'm really not thinking about that right now," Clinkscale said. "I'm really trying to focus on, like, we have a game [this] week against UNLV. [The NFL] is way down the road. I'm not thinking about that right now."
Clinkscale will not even acknowledge the NFL as among his aspirations.
On the contrary: "Just try to get better. And try not to get yelled at," he said with a smile.
Among the reasons Clinkscale has stuck at right guard is his focus on the next piece to the puzzle.
Three years ago Clinkscale split the starter's role with fellow redshirt freshman Kalvin Barrett. The latter started the first five games that season before Clinkscale took over for six of the final seven. He has not looked back since, missing only one game due to injury over the past two seasons.
"I think my first year started off pretty slow considering I was trying to learn the scheme and get used to the speed of playing D-I college football," Clinkscale said.
After playing in an option-style offense in high school, it was easiest for Clinkscale to learn run-blocking technique, but he still had to work each day to improve.
"When I first started I tried to work on one thing," he said. "As I got better at that (I tried) to start focusing on something else. So it was like start off with the run blocking, now I have to focus on my pass blocking, hand placement, body positioning, getting lower.
"We have a lot of things to worry about on the O-line. So just take little by little steps, just baby steps to try to get better."
The effort has kept him a step ahead, despite the constant competition Hueber puts his offensive linemen through.
"He's played good enough to keep that job," Hueber said.
Clinkscale's forte is still run blocking, but he has developed into well-rounded offensive lineman. Monday, he was named the Badgers' offensive player of the week for his performance in last week's opener.
"He was extremely physical in the game the other day," Hueber said. "He's got quickness. He can pull. He's smart in protection. He's got the package that we want.
"I think he's a damn good player, or else he wouldn't be playing."
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