Death and taxes might be the only things more consistent than the Wisconsin football team’s offensive line in the last 20-plus years.
The faces of the players and the coaches change, but still these five very large men, no matter who they are, continue to open holes and protect the quarterback better than any other group in the nation. This notion may be tested this year, though, as the Badgers have lost three starters from last season: center Peter Konz, guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Josh Oglesby.
Losing three starters is never good for an offensive line and can cause problems in the following year, but so far, that conventional thinking has not applied to the Badgers’ offensive line.
Last year’s offensive line is an example of that. Despite losing three members to the NFL the year before, new players stepped in and Wisconsin made a repeat appearance in the Rose Bowl. If past experience is any indicator, the Badgers might be in for another berth in Pasadena.
One thing that is different from last year, however, is the man molding these gargantuan men. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad left Madison with former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to become the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, but then took off for the offensive line job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this February.
The man that UW selected to succeed Bostad is former Ole Miss offensive line coach Mike Markuson. Markuson is very experienced, having spent the last 14 years in the SEC under Houston Nutt. Markuson, who was born in Farmington, Minn., said that he was glad to once again be back in the Midwest and working under head coach Bret Bielema.
PGA Tour pro Steve Stricker recently delivered his $25,000 Presidents Cup pledge to the University of Wisconsin to support the endowed scholarship he created in 2010 with his wife, Nicki, the school announced Friday.
The Presidents Cup does not feature purse or prize money, but instead allows particpants to designate charitable proceeds. UW was one of six organizations designated by Stricker to receive funds in return for participating in the 2011 event in Australia.
Stricker, an Edgerton native and Madison resident, golfed at Illinois, but Nicki was a four-year letter winner for the Badgers from 1988-91.
The couple set up their scholarship in 2010. It annually provides support to a member of the UW men's or women's golf teams.
"I can't thank Steve and Nicki enough for thinking of the Badgers," said UW athletic director Barry Alvarez. "Their support through this gift and others is very much appreciated. Endowed scholarships like the Stricker Scholarship Fund are critical in assisting our efforts to provide opportunities to our student-athletes."
It is nice to see someone give money to UW-Madison.
“I was giving Montee some heat,” Bielema said. “We finally found his right position — at fullback.”
The Badgers returned from last week’s spring break and opened the doors to the media for the first time. They also unveiled a backfield at times that included two running backs — Ball and junior James White.
UW fans don’t need to be alarmed about Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist last year who rushed for 1,923 yards and scored 39 touchdowns, moving to a new spot.
But the UW coaches would like to find a bigger role for White, whose statistics dropped last season as Ball emerged as the team’s workhorse.
White still had solid numbers, rushing for 713 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. But it was a dramatic dip from 2010, when he rushed for 1,052 yards and averaged 6.7 per attempt as a true freshman.
“As a competitor, you want to play more,” running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. “So I think he wants to play more. He’s putting in the work to play more. Obviously, he’s doing enough things to say, maybe we need to put them both on the field.”
Bielema said the Badgers put in a package with Ball and White together in the backfield last season, but didn’t really get to it.
“I believe it was game seven, we put it in,” Bielema said. “Our other stuff was working so well, we never expanded the package.”
One thing that makes the combination possible is both are excellent receivers. Ball caught 24 passes for 306 yards and six scores last season, while White caught 15 for 150.
It might be an interesting season. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Former University of Wisconsin center Peter Konz had to wait later than most NFL draft prospects to show what he could do.
Konz suffered a dislocated left ankle in the game against Minnesota on Nov. 12.
So he only took part in the bench press at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February and put up a disappointing 18 repetitions at 225 pounds.
During UW's pro day on March 7, Konz was limited to snapping for quarterback Russell Wilson during quarterback drills.
Konz finally got a chance to show what he could do Wednesday in a workout at the McClain Center and may have cemented his status as the top center in the draft later this month. Sixteen NFL teams were represented at the workout, mostly offensive line coaches.
"I thought it went very well," Konz said. "It's been a long journey, rehabbing from Nov. 12 until today and mustering out that Rose Bowl, really taking it easy during the combine, which was hard because teams want to see you.
"To get out here today and really feel healthy and able to do all the workouts makes me feel really confident."
Konz did not run a 40-yard dash. He did the bench press and also went through offensive line drills.
"It would have put more strain on my ankle," Konz said of the 40. "It's really more important to do the O-line drills, to see I'm functional, I can go in a minicamp and do it.
"If I go out and do a 40 and all of a sudden tweak something, that's just not smart."
First, Konz had to put to bed the number 18, which haunted him since the combine.
"There are tight ends and probably a running back or two that beat me," he said of his bench press reps. "It just burns through your pride."
"Brian Bott really helped me," Konz said. "He did a phenomenal job. That's a big leap from, what was it, a month ago until now?"
Former Michigan center David Molk led the way for offensive linemen in the bench press at the combine with 41 reps. Konz is tall for a center at 6-foot-5 and that does not help in the bench press. By comparison, Molk is 6-1.
But Konz made no excuses for a performance some draft analysts thought could have been a red flag that keeps him out of the first round.
It would be nice if the Packers drafted him. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!