He started all 13 games last season, but a nagging shoulder injury made life painful for Carimi. That followed missing a couple weeks of the fall camp with a knee injury and three games in 2008 with more knee problems.
Needless to say, Carimi was anxious to get back in the practice before UW's spring break. Bringing a feisty attitude to the field, Carimi wasn't shy about getting into physical altercations with the big or the small, a mentality he is hoping to instill in his young offensive linemen.
Badger Nation: The last time we saw you, you were mixing it up with Marcus Cromartie and wrestling with J.J. Watt after a play. Is that something you like doing in practice and how has Watt challenged you?
Gabe Carimi: Yeah. I mean, if I don't have someone challenging me, I am not going to get better. He's one of the better bull rushers. I've gone against some good bull rushers, and he's right up there.
Badger Nation: Did you come back earlier than you hoped or did you come back right on schedule?
Gabe Carimi: Yeah, it was a little early. I was going to come back (Tuesday), but I wanted to come back last Thursday. I wanted to get one day in there, so it was really my own decision to do it. That advised me not to, but I felt OK enough where I would have a week off to see how it feels.
Badger Nation: You are one of the guys that really loves practice and gets a lot out of practice as well aren't you?
Gabe Carimi: Definitely. It sucks being on the sideline standing still and everybody else is moving forward. Coach Bielema has been having coaches talk to us and (Tight End Coach Joe) Rudolph said everything is a race. He made that whole analogy that if you aren't racing someone on the team, you are racing someone in the country. That's what I am racing. I want to be the best in the nation, and that's really what I am getting at. I want to be the best tackle.
Badger Nation: How are you feeling physically and what procedure did you have done?
Gabe Carimi: It was just a simple minor scope on the back of the knee. It was such a small area that basically a piece of cartilage was hanging off when I dislocated my knee cap. It was just causing pain so they took it off and no more pain. When I was in there, they scoped around everything and said all the ligaments and everything else looked great.
Badger Nation: That knee injury was from the bowl game?
Gabe Carimi: Yes. It was a completely different knee injury that I have ever had. Badger Nation: You are about due for a healthy year aren't you?
Gabe Carimi: Yes, definitely. It's feeling good, too. I have been doing a lot of knee strengthening exercises with my legs to get in good shape for next year. My shoulder is finally coming along. I've been able to bench press again. I feel like (in the past) that I've been trying to maintain a status quo. Now I feel I've made it to a point where I feel I can start progressing again.
Badger Nation: What are the things you need to get done in camp to allow you to have the best final year that you can?
Gabe Carimi: Just staying focused and treating everything like a business. I just want to maintain everyday working consistently at everything I need to do to make myself better, and make it a race heading toward next season.
Badger Nation: Do you want to be the guy that other lineman in the Big Ten measure themselves against?
Gabe Carimi: Definitely I think I can be. I mean, I think I had a chance at the beginning of last year to be a guy like that, but you can't play up to your potential when you play with injuries.
Badger Nation: Do you think you were ever 100 percent healthy last year or what do you think you were at most of the year?
Gabe Carimi: I think I probably got up to 90 percent. In the Miami game, I felt really good until I got my kneecap dislocated. Probably the best I was at was 90 percent, but probably playing 75 percent with the knee and shoulder the whole year.
Badger Nation: So the knee was officially dislocated?
Gabe Carimi: Yeah. The trainers tested it and everything was stable in my knee so they said if you can play though the pain, it would be fine. It was painful, but it was terrible. It just got really stiff during the game but it was fine during the game and I was able to play pretty well and played decent. It was mostly after when I didn't have the adrenaline running that it was like, "OK, there it is (the pain)."
Badger Nation: What do you think a healthy year can do for you?
Gabe Carimi: I think it was really help out the team. If I am able to play full, we'll have one solid side of the offensive line for sure. I'll be able to call blitzes and handle my guys.
Badger Nation: Obviously size is the biggest thing, but how else have you changed since you been here?
Gabe Carimi: I came in at 280 pounds and now I weigh 320. I am just physically so much stronger and dominant and I still have that explosion, even more so being quick off the ball.
Badger Nation: Do you think this is the most competitive camp that you guys have had with all the guys with previous starting experience, especially with the guys in the middle?
Gabe Carimi: We have a lot of good players. Our strongest three squatters are all freshman or true freshman – Travis Frederick, Zac Matthias and Ryan Groy. Once they get their feet and technique down to be able to use that squat, they are going to be able to crush people. Right now, they don't quite understand the plays and be able to read a defense and guess, there's a lot of guessing right away because you don't understand it. It's not a guessing game once you see it and understand it. Once they get it, they'll be great here.
It seems like we are so just solid all the way though that there's really no way he can struggle. People would have to take out five guys in order for us to start suffering. (Last camp) Moffitt and I were out and everyone was holding up just fine. As long as I wasn't injured, I started every game and Moffitt started halfway though his redshirt freshman year.
Badger Nation: How good can this line be then?
Gabe Carimi: It depends on how hard we attack it. We can be good. We can be bad. It's all about our mentality. We have the capability of being good, which is really promising, but as long as we have the leaders to bring it through, we can do that.
Badger Nation: What role are you going to play in that regard?
Gabe Carimi: I always just tell players that they can't take crap from the defense and always attack them no matter what. Never make them look like they beat you. It's the whole mentality. If you get that first good pop, you can control them all practice. It's attacking right away and don't give up. If they shove you, don't be afraid. In years past, it seems like we've had a lot of nice offensive linemen. There's no reason we have to be nice. Off the field, we are nice funny kids that make fun of our own weight. On the field, it's a different mentality and Coach Chryst really emphasizes it. Once you cross that line, I'll yell and taunt guys on the field. As soon as I get back inside, I'll hug them and tell them they had a good practice and we got after it.
Badger Nation: Is that the mentality you use everyday?
Gabe Carimi: Absolutely. If I get a good pop in a game or push someone down, I will try to get them down the first five plays. Throw them down, yank them down, however I can grind them down on the ground anyway I can. It's a mentality. It seems like I can do that, it's going to be a good day for me.
Coach Bostad was a big reason that I have that mentality, just wanting to get guys down on the ground. It tired them out whenever they have to get up off the ground and that's probably the reason for it. I just love grinding guys. In our first drill in practice Tuesday I threw J.J. and Gilbert on the ground to end the drill because I want them on the ground. That's how it is, even if they are standing up the last two seconds. I'll throw them down, grab them down on the back or do something weird that they don't expect me to actually do that. It doesn't matter.