Spring Position Preview: Offensive Line

With the Wisconsin football team starting its 15-spring practice slate this week, Badger Nation dives into the position battles. Next, we focus on the offensive line, a position that returns only two starters and will be one of the main focal points during spring camp.

MADISON – One year ago, there were plenty of question marks on the offensive side of the football: Who would start at quarterback? How would the young wide receivers fit into the offense? How would John Clay fit into the scheme?

The only solid answer the Badgers had was the strength of the offensive line and it was a unit, for the most part, came through.

Wisconsin returned four starters and the only newcomer, John Moffitt, started six games the previous year in emergency duty. The unit came through despite having significant injuries to lead the Big Ten in rushing last year for the first time since 1999, averaging 211.2 yards per game.

One year later, Andy Kemp, Kraig Urbik and Eric Vanden Heuvel, a trio that started 91 games in four seasons, are gone, taking the consistency and durability they brought to the table with them.

With offensive line coach Bob Bostad needing to plug three big holes in the line, these 15 spring practices will go along way to solidifying some question marks on the line.

"The biggest challenge right now is making sure we come out with the correct starting five," he said. "That's it. That's the bottom line. We have to have a goal and that's our goal."

One person Badger fans know will be there is junior Gabe Carimi, the linemen who brings the most game experience to the table. Carimi, despite missing three games with a leg injury, was still named an honorable mention sophomore All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com and should be holding down the left tackle position for the third year in a row.

Also returning to the fold will be junior John Moffitt, one of just two Badger offensive linemen to start every game last season and has 19 career starts under his belt. After starting eight games at left guard during his freshman year, Moffitt moved to center for his sophomore season and didn't miss a beat.

Another guy that didn't miss a beat was junior Bill Nagy, who filled in at right guard on two separate occasions for Vanden Heuvel, including making back-to-back starts midway through the year.

In addition to Nagy getting game experience to prepare him for this season, arguably the most important move that happened with the offensive line was something that happened off the field.

Junior Jake Bscherer, ranked as one of the top offensive line recruits in the nation coming out of Sturgeon Bay in 2006, played as a true freshman but lost a position battle with Carimi in fall 07 to be the starting left tackle and was regulated to extra-point and field goal duty.

So with the line chalked full of experience last season, Bscherer took his redshirt, using the season to better develop and give himself a better chance at starting at right tackle this season. The Badgers, despite having depth issues at points, survived and didn't need Bscherer to give up his redshirt.

Things became dicey last season when Carimi went down against the Buckeyes but instead of Bscherer, the Badgers opted to put in then-freshman Josh Oglesby, the highly-ranked tackle out of Milwaukee, instead.

Oglesby, listed at 328 pounds, held his own in that game and later on started three games when Vanden Heuvel went down, getting much-needed reps and experience that has earned him the right to work with the first team at right tackle.

With Oglesby having that experience, the talented redshirt sophomore will be anchoring that side of the line and doing it with plenty of confidence.

"If you watch the Ohio State game, he played as good as football as I have seen him play," Bostad said. "I was really impressed with him. So, he needs to play at that level consistently. I've got to make sure I put him in the best position at right tackle and make sure that he maintains that edge."

But instead of Bscherer battling for the right tackle position, Bostad opted to move him to starting left guard, giving Bscherer a chance to start right away at a position instead of throwing the guard position at him late in camp.

"I want to see if they can do it right now," Bostad said, noting the experience factor that Bscherer, Oglesby and Nagy have as reserves last season. "There's no time for me to deal with people's feelings and sensitivities from the guys that backed up or whatever. We don't have time for that. We've got to walk out of spring in 15 practices and we've got to know who are five starters are. We're going to start this and see if Jake can handle it."

Sophomore guard Jake Current (who enrolled last spring) along with redshirt freshmen Peter Konz, Ricky Wagner and Kevin Zeitler make up the bulk of the two-deep depth chart and will be the main people pushing for the starting lineup.

The fifth member of the second team is freshman Travis Frederick, who followed Current's advice and enrolled early to take part in spring camp. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound prospect from Big Foot (Wis.) was slated to play guard at Wisconsin but started the first practice at center, telling Scout that the coaching staff, "likes my footwork and think that I can play at both positions."

With a lot of youth and only nine scholarship offensive linemen, Bostad is doing the best he can with what he has to work with, and that's a hungry group of guys that are looking for three starting positions.

"I am trying to create as much competition as I can," Bostad said. "At the same time, it's more important that I find out who the starting five is and that it'll be an effective five."

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