Spring Position Preview: Offensive Line

Needing to replace just one starter, returning four capable starters and having plenty of depth behind them, including a five-star talented recruit, the Wisconsin offensive line looks solid for spring football.

Starters returning: Sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi, senior left guard Andy Kemp, senior right guard Kraig Urbik and senior Eric Vanden Heuvel

Other key returnees: Sophomore tackle Jake Bscherer, sophomore guard John Moffitt, sophomore guard Bill Nagy and freshman tackle Josh Oglesby

Starters departed: Center Marcus Coleman

Other key departures: Guard Danny Kaye

2007 position coach: Bob Palcic

2008 position coach: Bob Bostad

Spring storylines:

In the rugged world of college football, the veteran Badger linemen had been a fortunate group of individuals. Through the Penn State game on Oct. 13, left guard Andy Kemp (6-foot-6, 316 pounds) started 20 straight games, center Marcus Coleman had started 22 straight, left guard Kraig Urbik (6-foot-6, 328 pounds) had started 35 straight and right guard Eric Vanden Heuvel (6-foot-7, 321 pounds) had started 22.

They were the model of consistency until the roof caved in on them.

Kemp broke his hand against the Nittany Lions and missed three games, giving sophomore John Moffitt (6-foot-4, 317 pounds) three starts at the position while he recovered.

Three weeks later against Ohio State, Vanden Heuvel suffered a leg injury in the final quarter, forcing him to remain sidelined for the rest of the season.

With Vanden Heuvel out, Kemp returning and Moffitt excelling at Kemp's old position, the coaching staff shuffled the line again.

Keeping Moffitt at left guard for the rest of the season, UW used Kemp's experience and versatility to move the then-junior to right guard and move Urbik from right guard to right tackle, a position where he had not played since starting 13 games in 2005.

Although it seemed like a patchwork offensive line, the Badgers last three games were proof that the formula worked.

Giving up only four sacks with the new lineup, Wisconsin's line cleared the path for UW's running backs to rush for 749 rushing yards, including a career-best 250 yards from freshman Zach Brown against Minnesota and a 132-yard day from P.J. Hill against a heralded Tennessee defensive line.

Losing only their center and returning three starters, Wisconsin looks solid up front. The only question is which of their quality linemen will play and where will they play.

Three players look to have solidified the position they started 2007 in:

Sophomore Gabe Carimi (6-foot-8, 299 pounds) filled in nicely for All-American Joe Thomas, who started all 13 games and gave up only two sacks off the end. Kemp's hand it fully healed and will return to the left guard position. Urbik, a consensus second-team All-Big Ten selection, will continue his 39-game start streak back at right guard.

The biggest spot the Badgers will have to fill is the center position, vacated by first-team All-Big Ten honoree Marcus Coleman. Through the first week of spring practice, the job looks to be Moffitt's to lose.

Playing in eight games, including his six starts to end the season, Moffitt showed the coaching staff that he can compete on the line, which is why he was rewarded and the main reason he started the spring No.1 on the depth chart at center.

The biggest competition will be at right tackle between Vanden Heuvel and highly-touted recruit Josh Oglesby.

After suffering a torn ACL his senior year of high school, Oglesby (6-foot-7, 338 pounds) used his redshirt season to physically rehabilitate his knee and to get acclimated to the speed of the college game. Listed at No.2 on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see how Vanden Heuvel reacts to his injury and to a talented recruit hot on his trail.

Other contributors to the offensive line this year will be sophomore Bill Nagy (6-foot-4, 300 pounds), who played five games at right guard last season, and junior Jake Bscherer.

Bscherer (6-foot-7, 297 pounds) played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams, but played most of the second half against Ohio State when Vanden Heuvel was injured.

This spring will also be beneficial to 2008 recruit Jake Current, who was one of four Badgers in this year's class to enroll a semester early.

Ranked 25th nationally by Scout.com as an offensive guard, Current is built to play guard or center at the college level and is going to have success playing in a program known for running the ball and requiring above-average run-blocking skills. While his run blocking is solid, Current will use this spring to improve on his pass blocking, one of the few things the young freshman needs to improve on at this stage.


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