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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, September 25, 2022
Competition on the O-line to be settled this week

oline: Seniors Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt (74) have combined to make 71 starts for the Badgers. They anchor the left side of a UW offensive line that features as much talent as any in the Big Ten

Competition on the O-line to be settled this week

For many teams in the country, finding five reliable options along the offensive line is one of the biggest challenges on any given week.

That is not a problem for the Badgers this year.

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Entering this weekend's matchup with Austin Peay, head coach Bret Bielema said he wants to finalize five starters before the beginning of the Big Ten confrence schedule. The difference is UW has a surplus of bodies that have kept the picture fuzzy.

The Badgers have seven legitimate options, and while the left side is solidified with First Team All-Big Ten senior Gabe Carimi entrenched at left tackle, senior John Moffitt at left guard and sophomore Peter Konz taking over at center, the right side features two position battles that still need to be sorted out.

At right guard, senior Bill Nagy and junior Kevin Zietler have split time with the starting unit both in practice and in the first three games. At right tackle, junior Josh Oglesby took some criticism from his coaches for inconsistent play early in the year and then left UW's victory over San Jose State Sept. 11 with a knee injury. Sophomore Ricky Wagner started in his place against Arizona State last week and is making a case to keep the job.

""Ricky [Wagner] played a hell of a game on Saturday,""Carimi said. ""That's good for [Oglesby] because, even though Ricky definitely doesn't have that spot [solidified], neither does [Oglesby] and the competition is just going to bring the best player out, whoever that is.""

While Oglesby possesses the physical tools to be an elite tackle and has 25 starts under his belt, procedure penalties and mental errors have drawn the ire of the coaching staff. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad said he is looking for each to be sharp physically and mentally.

""We're looking for the most consistent guy and the guy that can handle the full range of what we're asking them to do,"" he said. ""It's got to be everything from being a physical run blocker to being great in pass protection.""

Wagner said he has not thought about the fact that a starter may be named after Saturday, but noted that having so much talent in one unit is beneficial.

""We all want to see each other get better and it's a great way for us to play our best every day at practice,"" Wagner said.

The physical nature of playing in the trenches means injuries are a part of the position, but Moffitt said this group has shown the ability to make the best of every situation.

""We've got a lot of guys that have had a chance to develop and guys that took opportunities during injuries,"" Moffitt said. ""The benefit of that is you have experienced guys and guys that have played in a lot of football games.""

That might be significantly understating the situation.

The Badgers' top seven offensive linemen have a combined 128 starts, or an average of 18.3 starts per man. On top of that, sophomore Travis Frederick, who last year became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener in program history, has not appeared in a game this year and will redshirt to ease the logjam and preserve eligibility.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Groy, naturally a guard, has also worked his way into the conversation, although not by lining up in the trenches. He has appeared in all three games for UW this year at fullback.

""It's unbelievable,"" Carimi said. ""If somebody goes down, we've got somebody to back them up. It's awesome to have that depth and have that confidence that we can just plug and chug and go.""

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