Friday, May 30, 2008

We're #7 - our offensive line, that is

Just how good is the Badgers' offensive line? Lindy's has it as the seventh-best unit in the country.

"The Badgers, near-permanent residents of this list, have lots of versatility and standout guard Kraig Urbik, making life easier for a new starting quarterback."

The "near-permanent residents" phrase is what gets me. The Wisconsin line is almost always in this top 10, and when they're not I take exception. But is that reputation deserved?

We've always had top-tier linemen, from Joe Thomas to Dan Buenning to Casey Rabach to Chris McIntosh to Cory Raymer. And we always seem to have one of the best running attacks around. Here's where we've ranked nationally in rushing yardage recently:

2007: 22nd
2006: 37th
2005: 37th
2004: 52nd
2003: 37th
2002: 33rd
Good, but not great. Surely many of the rushing attacks ahead of ours have been unbalanced teams playing lesser competition. But while our attack was more balanced than, say, Navy's, our pass protection has never been iron-clad.

This year's unit looks to be pretty solid: Gabe Carimi and Eric Vanden Heuvel at tackle, Urbik and Andy Kemp at guard, and John Moffitt at center. Urbik's a star, Carimi might become a star this year or next year, Moffitt shows promise, Kemp and EVH are fairly average. Josh Oglesby is the star-in-waiting.

Maybe that's what it takes to have one of the 10 best offensive lines in the country. Maybe it's unrealistic to think that an offensive line will feature five all-conference types. Maybe after all these years, my expectations for the offensive line are greater.

If the Badgers' offensive line is the seventh-best in the country, we'll be all right this year.