October 15, 2010

UW success starts up front

MADISON - In hindsight, John Moffitt wasn't sure what he was getting into when he lined up across from Cameron Heyward a season ago.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the senior left guard knows full well what to expect from the Buckeye standout.

"Most times he's going to be a wide-three technique or outside tight on Gabe Carimi," Moffitt said. "I haven't really seen him on the right side too much."

That means the left side of the Badger line is going to be tested. From Peter Konz at center all the way down to Carimi at left tackle, Heyward is going to be wreaking havoc on the UW offensive line.

There's no question it's going to take the best all-around performance from UW's best position group in order for the Badgers to move the ball offensively.

And Heyward has a lot to do with that.

"There's no question they're the best defensive line we've seen so far," Moffitt said. "But I think that's exciting and a great challenge. I know we're looking forward to it and getting ready to prepare and do things the right way."

But that could be easier said than done.

Heyward, while he's an NFL talent, has company on OSU's defensive front. He may be the leader, but across the board that front four is pretty nasty for a Buckeye team hell-bent on getting to college football's promised land.

"Last year I didn't know much about them," Konz said. "I think it was because I was new and didn't know much. I had to focus on different things. But now, I kind of have recognition for who these guys are.

"They have a lot of strong and physical guys that we've got to be ready for."

But it starts with Heyward, who ranks seventh on the squad with 16 tackles, 4.5 of which went for a loss.

"I think what he does best is physically handle people in a different way," Konz said. "That's probably going to get him to the NFL. That's what he does. He just lines up and says I'm stronger than you and you're going to have to deal with me.

"Heck, that's the kind of football we want to play, too. People want to see these two teams that say, 'Hey, come and get it' and they want to see them face each other like that."

While the OSU defensive line, consisting of Nathan Williams, Dexter Larimore, John Simon and Heyward, has yet to give up a 100-yard rusher over the past 29 games, it's effectiveness hasn't necessarily translated into sacks.

Through six games, the Buckeyes defense ranks eighth in the Big Ten in sacks. Considering the potency and punch the unit packs, that's kind of a surprising statistic.

"I think they're breaking in some good guys," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "Up front they lost two really good players. Everybody wants to talk about their personnel, but Ohio State's defensive scheme is very unique. It's unlike anything else in our league not only from a talent level but the scheme itself.

"They're a 3-4, they're very multiple, they move people around and Heyward lines up everywhere which creates issues. In the back end they play a variety, too. They're a cover three, a cover two, quarters coverage and they do a lot of different things.

"They mix it up and give it a lot of diversity. That makes it a very difficult preparation."

It all starts up front for the Badgers, though. If they want any chance of putting up points on a defense that has allowed just 13.5 points per game, they will need to jumpstart the running game, pack a punch in pass protection and essentially play their best game of the season.

It really comes down to whichever team exerts their will more than the other will likely see success.

"There's no question," Konz said. "If we haven't had our best game now, who better to have it against than Ohio State?"

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