Nov. 14, 2011
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- There was a sense of urgency in Ryan Groy's voice and temperament Saturday following Wisconsin's win over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Standing outside the UW locker room, Groy's thoughts were with teammate Peter Konz, who was having his injured ankle examined at a local hospital.
"I feel badly for Pete,'' said Groy, a redshirt sophomore from Middleton, Wis. "He has been really playing well this season and I have to get up to the level where he was at.''
With Konz sidelined indefinitely, Groy will take over as the UW's starting offensive center.
"I've been ready all year in case somebody went down,'' Groy said.
Earlier this season, Groy replaced injured left guard Travis Frederick against Oregon State.
"He did a nice job, he did some good things, he really did,'' UW offensive line coach Bob Bostad said.
That exposure, Bostad added, helped Groy from the perspective of "getting out there and playing and kind of knocking the rust off and being able to say he started in a game and contributed.''
Now, in light of the Konz injury, Bostad said of Groy, "He's ready. I don't see any wide eyes or anything like that. I just haven't seen that from him. He has been itching to go.''
A year ago, Groy got his first taste of competition while starting two games at fullback. Since the start of this season's training camp, he has been taking reps at both guard and center.
"Right now, I feel more comfortable at center,'' Groy said.
What does Groy anticipate being his biggest challenge?
"It's going to be the (pre-snap) calls and just being on the same page with everybody on the O-line,'' he said. "It's something we'll get down this week because we'll be watching film together.''
From that standpoint, Bostad feels Groy will benefit from being sandwiched between Frederick, who has also started games at center, and right guard Kevin Zeitler, a senior.
That's essentially what Bostad told Groy when he replaced Konz against the Gophers, "You've got two guys who have enough experience under their belt, they can help you out.''
Frederick understood Bostad's thinking. "We're sorry Pete is hurt,'' he said, "but Coach Bo (Bostad) has moved him in and out at guard and center and he does a really good job when he comes in.
"It's nice to have a guy step in like Billy Nagy did last year.''
Nagy was cast in the role of the utility offensive lineman who patched holes when they opened.
"It's a little different urgency at center because you're the head of the O-line,'' Groy said.
Over the last few seasons, the Badgers have done a good job of maintaining a high level of efficiency on offense despite elevating backups to starting positions because of injuries.
"He (Groy) needs to embrace it,'' said UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, "and rise up to the challenge-slash-opportunity.
"Just being on the field, there's also an understanding of accountability -- you're accountable for yourself and accountable for the rest of the group. Little things do make a difference.
"He's no stranger to that.''
Bostad said after "looking at the fronts we're going to play and the personnel we're going to go up against in the next two weeks," he opted for Groy at center "instead of moving two guys around."
The Badgers play at Illinois Saturday before closing out the regular season at home against Penn State on Nov. 26.
Groy's versatility to play multiple positions has been a reflection of his athleticism.
Asked if Groy is as athletic as Konz, Bostad said, "I think he is.''
Bostad, though, also provided this disclaimer: "Ryan knows that stuff doesn't mean anything if you're not hitting people and striking people,'' he said.
"I'd rather have a guy be more unathletic and do his job inside and be physical and finish then to be able to see a guy get out and run and say, `Boy is he athletic.'''
Konz was regarded as one of the top offensive centers in college football, and Bostad said the Badgers will miss "obviously a ton of experience and his physical presence inside.''
There's just so much more to Konz and his overall game, too.
"Pete's a guy who's longer than your normal center but he still plays with great leverage,'' Bostad said. "With that height when you get under someone, you can get that much more movement.''
On the UW depth chart, Jake Current, a senior from Troy, Ohio, will move up behind Groy at center, while Zac Matthias, a sophomore from Hemlock, Mich., will be the third guard.
Bostad admitted seeing Konz get injured, "Makes you sick.''
Konz was running downfield looking to throw a block for Montee Ball, who was tackled by a Minnesota linebacker, and both rolled up on the unsuspecting Konz, a typical injury among O-lineman.
"You wish that he wasn't in there (fourth quarter),'' Bostad said.
"I'm sure to the casual observer they're thinking this game is over a long time ago, but I didn't have that feeling," he added. "Based on the way the season has gone, I'm not sure you can.''