A Badge of Honor

When a team picks its captains, it's usually the veteran quarterback, the talented upperclassman or the team spokesman. At Wisconsin, the tone is set on the offensive line, which makes it no surprise senior John Moffitt was joined by senior Gabe Carimi as two of six team captains.

MADISON - During his coaching tenure at Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez was often fond of quoting former mentor Lou Holtz when it came to leadership: ‘If your leaders came from the offensive line, you have the chance to be a real good team.'

It's evident that Alvarez has extended those words of wisdom on to his student.

"I've heard it from Coach Alvarez," Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema said with a smile. "I didn't know he was quoting Lou Holtz."

If such is the case, No.12 Wisconsin has a chance to be very good in 2010. On Wednesday night, Wisconsin named senior offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt as two of six senior captains for the season, joining tight end Lance Kendricks, middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean, quarterback Scott Tolzien and strong safety Jay Valai.

"Gabe has a strong personality, I have a strong personality and we're two of the older guys on the offense along with Scott, who will say something when he needs to," Moffitt said. "It's more of an out-spoken character than being characterized by position. Guys that are leaders will step up to be leaders, whether you're a kicker or a wide receiver or an offense lineman."

It's only the third time in school history and first since 2001 that the Badgers have six captains for one season, and it's not a surprise seeing two linemen voted in by their teammates because of the work they had.

The offensive line returns all five starters, have created depth after using six different combinations and seven different players used to fill out a starting lineup. More importantly, the group has tons of versatile players, a fact reinforced with the injuries the line has coped with throughout camp and seemingly not missed a beat.

Moffitt has started 15 games at center and 14 games at left guard, sophomore Travis Frederick started two games at center and two at left guard during his true freshman year and senior Bill Nagy and junior Kevin Zeitler both have multiple starts at right guard.

"I made jokes on the circuit this summer that to have seven offensive starters at a position you start five is an unreal thing to be able to witness," Bielema said. "I think it's a credit to how Bob (Bostad) has been able to recruit at that position. When offensive linemen come here, they want to be here because of the tradition we have established. It's something we've really beginning to reap the rewards in with our depth."

A Worthy Badge

Moffitt has certainly earned his stripes as a leader, especially considering the fact that he felt his junior season was in jeopardy and that he wasn't planning on returning for his senior year.

Just days before last year's fall camp opened, Moffitt strained his pectoral muscle after lifting weights at the end of summer workouts. Moffitt thought the injury was serious enough that he would miss significant time, but instead missed the first two games. He then moved from center to left guard, where he started eight straight games before starting the last two at center.

Then a couple days after the bowl victory in January, Moffitt was ready to sign with an agent and head to the NFL, but backed out at the 11th hour after conversing with Bielema, Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst and his teammates.

"Personally, I think it's tough to go through camp, not get the reps and have to play catch up," Moffitt said. "It's essential to get every rep you can and get better. You probably take as many reps in camp as you will through the whole season. On a team level, we've got a lot more depth than last year. Injuries have helped us grow from the past to now."

The approach hasn't changed though for Moffitt and his linematers during camp, one that has been emerged in heavy competition, refining technique and finding the five best linemen.

"We don't over pass anything and Coach Bostad doesn't put anything in the closet and forget about it," Moffitt said. "It's always continuous repetition because I think that's the kind of game is and the kind of position it is."

Attention to Detail

That consistent work to perfect the technique displayed by the offensive linemen spread throughout the team during winter and summer conditioning, thanks to another ingenious move by Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Herbert. A year after dividing the team by position groups to compete for a replica WWE title belt he nicknamed the ‘Tonesetter' belt, Herbert intermingled the position to help build team chemistry.

After debating, the choice was made to make every group leader an offensive lineman.

"We have seven starters back on the offensive line, which is really good when you only have five spots," said Bielema. "I think if you go to other programs, you are going to put your six marquee guys (in that position). For us at Wisconsin, the ways those guys establish themselves can really make the chemistry of the team."

The trickle-down effect has helped Wisconsin deal with the high praise and outside expectations placed on a squad. As the six senior captains will say, they're ready to start putting their team's hard work to good use.

"It's always excited to go out and play football," said Moffitt. "Obviously the expectations are higher, but we have our own expectations like we do every year. We're ready to play football in a game situation. It's always anticipated. Our eyes are on the prize, and everything else will fall into place if we take of our business on the line."


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