Jan. 2, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. -- Peter Konz didn’t look around the subdued UW locker room following Saturday’s loss in the Rose Bowl. Instead, he looked at himself. By so doing, he was looking ahead.
“I know how to work harder now,’’ said Konz, the sophomore center. “I know from the senior leadership how to be an effective leader, how to steer things before they go wrong and not fix it after the fact. I know what kind of intensity we need to bring if we want to have another good season.
“Maybe I need to just get out of being a ‘me’ player and break out into a leadership role and try to help everybody out. Gabe (Carimi) and Moff (John Moffitt) have been doing that for two years.
“Now it’s my turn to step up.’’
Can the way it all ended be a driving force?
“You always learn things from hard times,’’ Konz went on. “Because we’ve had such a devastating loss here, it’s just going to power us forward. We’re going to learn from it. We’re not a team that sulks. We’re a team that learns from our past.’’
Although the Badgers must replace the All-American tag-team of Carimi and Moffitt, the left tackle and guard, respectively, Konz will be one of three returning starters on the offensive line along with right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Ricky Wagner.
Because of the Outland Trophy legacy at left tackle (Joe Thomas and Carimi), there’s the prospect of moving Wagner to that side and opening up the competition at right tackle between Casey Dehn and Josh Oglesby, who’s coming off knee surgery. Oglesby has 15 career starts.
Dallas Lewallen (6-6, 325) and Robbie Havenstein (6-8, 350) are a couple of big bodies that could eventually factor into the mix at tackle. Meanwhile, the Badgers will look to replace Moffitt with Ryan Groy, who was the short yardage fullback on occasion, or Travis Frederick, who redshirted this season.
In Wisconsin’s scheme, the tight end or H-back is a valuable component to the running attack and play-action game and that void must be filled with the graduation loss of Lance Kendricks.
“I’ve been able to watch a lot of great players come and go and with Lance leaving, I know the job is open,’’ said tight end Jacob Pedersen, a redshirt freshman who got considerable playing time. “I’m going to work harder in the off-season than I’ve ever worked so we can repeat (as Big Ten champs).
“Last year was nice finishing with that win (over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl). But this loss will drive people to work even harder. It’s a dark cloud that will loom over our head.’’
Pedersen has already taken an inventory on where he must improve.
“One area I have to get better is blocking,’’ he said. “Lance is a very explosive blocker. You’ve seen plenty of pancake blocks from him. I’m going to watch as much film on him as I can. I’ve got a lot of work to do. But I’ve learned over the last two years from Garrett (Graham) and now Lance.’’
Pedersen and Jake Byrne will lend some experience to a young group of tight ends that will include Brian Wozniak and Sherard Cadogan. The wide receiver rotation will be even younger.
Nick Toon will be the focal point. As he was for the TCU defense. Toon went to school on what happened in the Rose Bowl, too. “We obviously didn’t capitalize on enough of the scoring opportunities we had,’’ he said. “We just did enough things to get ourselves beat. We beat ourselves.’’
But there was something else that he took from the game that might shape next season. “You can’t take anything for granted,’’ he said. Looking ahead, he added, “As as senior, I have to be a leader.’’
Toon will have to lead by example for Jared Abbrederis, Manasseh Garner (assuming he stays on offense), Jeff Duckworth, Marquis Mason, Chase Hammond and Isaiah Williams.
With or without John Clay, the Badgers will be deep and talented at tailback with Montee Ball and James White and Jeff Lewis. They will also have a battled-tested fullback in Bradie Ewing.
Who will replace Scott Tolzien? Jon Budmayr would have to be considered the leader in clubhouse, followed by Joe Brennan and Curt Phillips, who must get healthy.
“Scott was a great leader – a great person on and off the field,’’ Budmayr said. “There are different things you can take from him including the way he prepares himself for games.
“I’m looking forward to January and the chance to get bigger, stronger and faster. Hopefully I can take that into the spring and carry it over to the summer and fall.
“The young guys especially can’t forget what this feeling is like (the TCU loss).’’
That was echoed by one of the older guys, Aaron Henry, the junior safety.
“Losing the game like we did shows you that every play does count,’’ Henry said. “TCU had some big plays on plays that normally don’t beat us. We have to take it as a learning experience. If you don’t learn from something like this it can come back and haunt you.
“I know the guys who are leaving are upset, and mad and frustrated. We’ve got guys coming back, like myself, who are just anxious to learn from that loss. I’m definitely looking forward to next season and being the leader they expect me to be.
“Our seniors this year did a tremendous job. I know the shoes are going to be big, but I look forward to wearing them. Hopefully we can put ourselves in a great position again next year. The key word is ‘finish.’ That’s what we’re going to have to do.’’
Henry will be one of the top safeties in the Big Ten and the catalyst in a secondary that will also return cornerbacks Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith. The linebacking corps will revolve around Mike Taylor and Chris Borland who’s expected to bounce back to his freshman form after shoulder surgery.
The Badgers will bring back everyone on the defensive line, save possibly J.J. Watt who’s considering skipping his final season of eligibility and entering the NFL draft. But they have created some depth at defensive end with Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel.
Defensive tackle should be a strength with Patrick Butrym, Ethan Hemer, Jordan Kohout, Beau Allen and Eriks Briedis. In today’s college football landscape, at a time when everyone is debating whether scholarship players should be getting paid, there’s no fresher storyline than Hemer’s.
He paid the cover charge to play in the Rose Bowl.
Hemer is a still walk-on.
Not only did Hemer start against Texas Christian, but he threw the key block on Brad Nortman’s run on a fake punt. (Incidentally, Nortman and placekicker Philip Welch will also be back next season.)
“Because we’ve been here,’’ Hemer said of the BCS stage, “this gives us more incentive to come back. We know what it’s like now. We’ve got a taste of it and everyone wants to be a part of this again.’'