The Badgers got a stroke of luck when junior running back Montee Ball decided to stay for his senior season, but they'll have a big hole to fill at center in 2012 - literally, as well as figuratively.
Redshirt-junior center Peter Konz officially announced Tuesday that he will forgo his senior season, and declared for the NFL Draft. In a letter to Badger fans Konz discussed his decision with his usual candid, light-hearted style, and explained why he decided to make the leap to the NFL. Konz made sure to thank his family, friends, and Badger fans for the support he's received over the years.
"As you've probably heard, I have decided to forgo my senior season and enter the NFL draft," Konz said. "Because of the support I have received, the degree I am so proud to leave with, the football legacy I helped leave behind, and more reasons than I could even remember, I would simply like to say thank you. Every last person has made my experience at Wisconsin far beyond what I could have imagined and without you I could never be where I am today."
Konz will leave school with a degree in communication arts, a talent usually on display every week on Tuesdays after practice during his meetings with the media. Head coach Bret Bielema also issued a statement wishing Konz luck in his future career path.
"I wish nothing but the best for Pete in his family moving forward," Bielema said. "He has the opportunity to join a long line of Badger offensive linemen who have gone on to have success in the NFL and I expect nothing less from him."
Konz is rated as one of the top centers in the 2012 draft class, and will likely be taken early on in the draft. DraftTek.com lists Konz as the top center available, in addition to being the 26th-best prospect overall. Teams seem to value his mobility at center, where the 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman was often seen pulling to block for Montee Ball and other Badger running backs.
Konz's departure will leave the Badgers to search for his replacement, but they might have already gotten a good look at the next man in. Offensive guard Travis Frederick stepped in for Konz after Ryan Groy struggled in the wake of Konz's ankle injury, and played about two and a half games at center without many problems. Frederick also played center his freshman year in 2009, before being injured in the second game of the year, allowing Konz to take his position.
The Badgers will now return just two starters on the offensive line for 2012, after Josh Oglesby and Kevin Zeitler used up their final years of eligibility. Ricky Wagner and Frederick will need to provide stability next year as younger players like Rob Havenstein and Groy look to take on bigger roles.