Nov. 24, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- UW offensive line coach Bob Bostad was in the midst of explaining how all of his players have their own way of expressing themselves when one of his pupils, John Moffitt, walked into his office.
“Here’s your apple today, coach,” said Moffitt, placing a red apple on Bostad’s desk.
Bostad rolled his eyes as Moffitt smiled and left.
“He brought me an apple, good Lord,” he said.
In the next breath, Bostad playfully accused his starting left guard of being a “ham” who has an impeccable sense of timing when it comes to such things. Especially when there is an audience.
That being said, Moffitt does make you laugh, doesn’t he?
“Yeah, lots,” he conceded begrudgingly. “You can’t deny it – he has a pretty good personality and he’s funny. He’s also a great team player. The kids really like him, and they look up to him.”
Moffitt is Exhibit A for the varying degrees of self-expression that exists among the offensive linemen. “They all have their own way of delivering their message,” Bostad said.
That also applies to Bostad, who can be as reticent off the field as he is emotionally-charged on the field. How can he be so uninhibited during a practice and so restrained afterward?
“I’m not going to walk up and down the halls here and act the way I do on the field,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper. “I just think the field is a different place. If you want it to be a physical violent game – at an intense position – you’d better be demanding and get after your players.”
Bostad is passionate about coaching. His dad was a Hall of Fame prep coach. Moreover, he’s passionate about coaching the offensive line, though he didn’t play in the trenches at UW-Stevens Point.
Instead, he was an all-conference linebacker, a four-year starter. Upon graduation, he turned to coaching – serving as a student assistant with the Pointers during the early ’90s.
“The (head) coach tells you where to go and you go as a young guy,” said Bostad, who wound up assisting with the O-line. “And I just fell in love with it. It was a passion and it consumed me.”
He has never had any desire to coach any other position group beyond the O-line and tight ends. “It’s been a learning process wherever I’ve gone,” he said. “It’s like a trade, you develop it as you go.”
Bob Bostad, Sr., obviously had an impact on his son.
The elder Bostad posted a record of 155-61-3 during his 20 years at Pardeeville High School. He retired in 1984 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
Coaching the Badgers was a dream-come-true for father and son. Although he never pushed his children in any one direction, he instructed them to, “Do whatever you want to do, just do it right.”
Shortly after Bostad joined the UW staff in 2006, his father died from a heart attack. He was 73. That first season in Madison was difficult for him because every day there was something “maybe you wanted to tell him or bounce off him. Your natural reaction is, ‘I’m going to call him up.’ But you can’t.’”
To this day, Bostad can still apply some of the lessons that he learned during his formative years as a coach’s kid when he used to hang out at practices. “It was just a way of life for me,” he said.
But he also had to be true to himself during his own maturation process as a coach. “I do it one way,” Bostad said of his approach or style. “And it might not be everybody’s way. But I do think you have to coach it (the offensive line) differently from maybe a lot of the other units.”
How would he describe the differences?
“I think you have to be demanding of them,” he said.
Particularly on the practice field, where precision is demanded on every snap. Bostad is a stickler for techniques and tempo – for paying attention to details and repetitions. Everything is a point of emphasis and reinforced daily. “Because it’s a tiny little window you have with them,” he said.
The finished product is on Saturdays when the Badgers bludgeon their opponents on the line of scrimmage. Asked about the 29 straight running plays in the second half at Michigan, Bostad said, “I didn’t think it would come to that but it was a great ending and a compliment to the kids.”
Right offensive tackle Ricky Wagner has been singled out for his hustle to get downfield and throw a block on one of James White’s scoring runs. Bostad noted that he made that block twice.
“It all goes back to practice,” he stressed. “What he (Wagner) did, he’s heard it from me a 1,000 times. But he had to go out and do it and hustle and I give him all the credit in the world. Great job.
“I love how he has secured the right side for us. He has been matched against some really good players and I’ve been impressed how fast he has taken over the spot. He doesn’t look like a rookie.”
Bostad has his own vision on how an offensive line should look. “You have to play to your strengths and you can’t waste a play,” he said. “There are some things that guys do better.”
In part, he wants “a mobile center” who can get out on the perimeter and lead interference on sweeps and a guard who can “pull and knock the guy out of the hole.”
And that’s what he has in Peter Konz and Bill Nagy at center and Moffitt and Kevin Zeitler at guard. Anchoring the group are the tackles: Wagner and Gabe Carimi, a finalist for the Outland Trophy.
“I do think people in this state have a pretty good appreciation for the offensive line,” Bostad said. “They certainly hold them in high regard obviously because there’s been some good history here.”
Carimi replaced Joe Thomas, who won the 2006 Outland Trophy.
“I’m really proud of the way they’ve played,” Bostad said of Carimi and Moffitt. “We’ve put a lot on their backs, we’ve loaded them up and they’ve taken it all and done a great job.”
After losing at Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, the Badgers were forced to regroup and Bostad cited Carimi and Moffitt for “keeping their focus and never wavering” as team leaders.
Carimi, Moffitt and Nagy are all fifth-year seniors who will be making their final home appearance Saturday. “This is a place which is always going to be a huge part of their life,” Bostad said. “They’ve played a lot of football, had a lot of success and they’ve gotten the most out of it.”
So far, Bostad has gotten the most out of the O-line, which is one of the reasons, if not the leading reason, why the Badgers are in the position to claim a share of the Big Ten championship.
“When you have success, it’s always nice,” Bostad said. “When you plug in a plan and it’s executed, those things are satisfying. And when you can do it with a bit of nastiness and physicalness – and dominate someone leaving no doubt – that’s what you’re striving for as a coach.”