Year after year, regardless of who throws on the pads, people expect Wisconsin's offensive line to rank among the nation's elite. The UW football program is notorious for its excellent replacement of offensive lineman, but do the expectations become unfair at some point? Think about it: in the past two seasons Wisconsin has lost studs like Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz - all with trophy cases full of awards. In 2010, these four played together with one-time youngster and soon-to-be high NFL Draft pick, Ricky Wagner, in what may have been one of the greatest offensive lines we have seen.
Regardless of departures to graduation and the NFL, UW continues to churn out bruising 300-pound lineman. But after losing Zeitler, Konz, and right tackle Josh Oglesby this offseason, the Badgers face another tough set of replacements. It is fair to expect another exceptional season in the trenches with leaders like center Travis Frederick and Wagner returning, but it takes time to form a cohesive unit (even last year's the o-line had its fair share of early struggles) and is unrealistic to assume each successor will be the next All-American.
While the Badgers replace three starters on the line, two of those replacements - Rob Havenstein and Ryan Groy - are far from rookies. Havenstein saw the field in 13 games last season while Groy started in four and played in all 14 games. Head coach Bret Bielema has yet to name a starter at right guard, but Badger fans should feel confident in the experience of the four known starters heading into fall practice.
All signs point to another successful season for UW's offensive line, but with a new quarterback and likely a run-heavy gameplan, the Badgers will rely even more on the production of its line. New quarterback Danny O'Brien will not be asked to carry the offense — as that will be Montee Ball's job — but for the continued success of the running game and the protection of O'Brien, the offensive line cannot lose a beat. While we have addressed the pressure on the wide receivers and defensive line to improve, do not forget the sky-high expectations for the offensive line, and that the weight carried on their shoulders is greater than their own.
Despite the change on the offensive line, center Travis Frederick expects the new group to maintain the same success.
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