MADISON, Wis. - For most teams in college football, losing a star at center for even a short period would be a big problem. But there aren't too many worried faces in Madison after junior center Peter Konz dislocated his left ankle against Minnesota. Konz's injury will hold him out for about two to four weeks, according to Bret Bielema, but the Badgers have someone ready and willing to step up.
"I've been backing up guys for last year and this year, and I'm finally getting my turn, so I'm very excited to show what I can do," sophomore center Ryan Groy said after practice Tuesday.
Groy isn't heading into the situation without experience, either. He already started at left guard this season for a game in place of Travis Frederick, and said he feels more comfortable at center after switching during spring ball. In fact, getting that first start earlier in the year should help Groy deal with the extra nerves that come with being a starter.
"The start earlier this year is probably the most nervous I've been going into a game," Groy said. "I think that will really help going into this one."
Frederick, a fellow sophomore, said that Groy's ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line will help him while he's filling in for Konz.
"You can see [the game] from a center standpoint, and you can see it from a guard standpoint," Frederick said. "So you know where people are going and the way things move better as a whole."
Even though Groy is feeling confident in his ability to step in and play right away, that doesn't mean he felt he deserved to start over more senior members of the line. Konz, after all, is considered one of the nation's top centers, and is a top NFL prospect.
"I knew coming in that I would have to wait my turn. I did my best to try and get into the starting lineup, and if I didn't do it then I've just got to wait," Groy said. "It was too bad that Pete went down, but I'm happy to step in and do what I can."
But Konz's injury doesn't mean he'll be completely out of sight. Wearing a boot on his left foot, the junior seemed to be his normally light-hearted self, and mentioned that he'll do what he can to help his workout partner be comfortable on the field in his absence.
"I think the biggest thing is [being comfortable.] For me to just tell him every in and out of what I've learned over my past, it's not going to sink in, and I know that," Konz said. "He can play as good as anybody in the Big Ten if he's feeling comfortable. So just him knowing it in his own mind is the key this week."
And while Konz may be able to help Groy in the film room by explaining coverages and blitzes, eventually Groy will need to take on a bigger leadership role on his own during the game.
"[Konz] is a little more vocal and he's a little more of leader on the offensive line, and I'm a younger guy but I've got to take over that role and do what I can with it," Groy said.