As national signing day gets further and further in to the rearview mirror we continue our series on the last decade of Badgers football recruiting.
While we all love to talk about the amazing tradition at running back, none of it is possible without the big guys up front. Talk to any running back and they’ll gush about what the offensive line does for them.
Talk to any NFL scout or general manager and they’d likely take anyone with a Wisconsin after their name on the draft board if given the choice. After all, it is the position that is the most drafted of any from UW over the course of the last few years.
So, let us tackle the most difficult position to break down, if for no other reason than the large numbers of successful players UW has produced in the past decade.
5. Josh Oglesby (2007)
Recruiting Info: 5-star, No. 14 nationally, No. 1 OT, No. 1 in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten (2011)
Few in-state players have come to the University of Wisconsin with as much hype and promise as Oglesby did. After all, it isn’t too often that a 5-star player is in the state of Wisconsin at all, whether in high school or college.
However, his career didn’t quite pan out like 5-star careers should. That was in large part due to a series of knee injuries that saw him have to have six surgeries and left him without cartilage in either knee by the time he left UW.
Still, when he was on the field, few were better at right tackle than Oglesby was. He was cerebral and found a way to use his mammoth frame to his advantage when his athleticism was limited due to injuries.
Oglesby saved his best for last, starting 13 of 14 games in his senior season and dominating in that season.
One is left with the feeling of what might have been had injuries not played a significant role in his career. Still, he was one of the best we’ve seen over the past decade of recruits at Wisconsin.
4. Kevin Zeitler (2008)
Recruiting Info: No. 694 nationally, No. 51 OG, No. 4 in Wisconsin
Accolades: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (2010); Consensus 1st team All-Big Ten, 1st team All-American (AFCA & Pro Football Weekly) (2011)
Kevin Zeitler wasn’t exactly the end-all, be-all of Wisconsin’s 2008 recruiting class but it didn’t take him long to establish himself as a future star. After redshirting his first year on campus, Zeitler was able to establish himself as a starter for the next three years for the most part.
He would go on to start 36 games at right guard and play in 40 career appearances. He was part of perhaps the single greatest offensive line in UW history in 2010. That offensive line featured names like Gabe Carimi (who won the Outland Trophy that year), John Moffitt, Bill Nagy, Ricky Wagner and Zeitler. All of them went on to be drafted in the NFL, and that is to say nothing of the sixth man in the lineup named Peter Konz, who also would be drafted in to the NFL.
As an individual player, there were few more athletic guards at UW in the last decade nor few who were as sturdy in both the run and pass protections as him. It all added up to a rare interior lineman that was easily a player ready to make the early leap to the NFL.
Since leaving UW after his junior season, Zeitler has gone on to become one of the top offensive guards in the NFL and could be the hottest free agent interior lineman on the market this offseason.
3. Ryan Ramczyk (2013)
Recruiting Info: No stars, No rating at OT, No rating in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten
Few Badgers fans will realize that Ramczyk was actually a recruit that signed with the Badgers back in 2013. Something about a coaching change and playing time led him to go the D3 route that time. A different coaching change led him back to the Badgers football program and arguably there hasn’t been a left tackle that has had a better single season than Ramczyk has had in this past decade.
He was an easy pick for 1st team All-Big Ten honors . It all has added up to the craziest story for a player who NFL.com rates as the No. 1 offensive tackle in this draft class and will be yet another first round offensive lineman for the Badgers to put in their recruiting material.
In one year he managed to establish himself as perhaps the best left tackle Wisconsin has seen since the days of Joe Thomas, and that is saying a lot.
Perhaps there is a case for Ramczyk to top this list, but longevity also matters and the next two guys have that and the talent to back it up too.
2. Rob Havenstein (2010)
Recruiting Info: No. 679 nationally, No. 33 OG, No. 18 player in Maryland
Accolades: 2nd team All-Big Ten (2013, media); Consensus 1st team All-Big Ten, 1st team All-American (AFCA)
Few players have dwarfed their competition along Wisconsin’s offensive line the way Rob Havenstein did while at UW. He came in at 6-8, 350 pounds and stayed right there if not a little slimmer by the end of his career.
Yet, he was one of the more athletic right tackles Wisconsin has seen in some time and became one of the most dependable players on the offensive line as well. Following the impressive 2010 offensive line, Havenstein took over right where they left off in 2011, playing in 12 games. He wouldn’t miss a start the rest of his career, coming out with the first team offense for 42 of his career 54 appearances in a Badgers uniform.
Havenstein was one of the driving forces behind record-setting rushing attacks and held up well in the passing game as well.
By the end of it all he had become one of the top right tackles in college football and became a 2nd round pick of the then St. Louis Rams. He’s gone on to become the face of the Los Angeles Rams offense and perhaps one of the most underrated right tackles in the NFL today.
1. Travis Frederick (2009)
Recruiting Info: NR nationally, No. 88 OT, No. 7 in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten (2012, media)
I believe a few programs missed the mark when it came to recruiting Travis Frederick. When it came time to choose a school, only Air Force, Navy, North Dakota State and Wisconsin had the stones to put an offer in writing for him. The choice for the Badger-state native was an easy one.
UW was lucky from the get-go, with Frederick becoming the first true freshman offensive lineman to ever start a season opener. He did that in 2009 against Northern Illinois and would go on to win two Big Ten championship games as well as three overall Big Ten titles (although he was a redshirt for the 2010 season).
His freshman season was cut a bit short though, as he only played in five games total due to an ankle injury. That injury and the log-jam along the offensive line allowed the coaching staff to sit Frederick for the 2010 season. However, once back in the lineup he wasn’t going anywhere.
Originally a tweener inside, Frederick eventually settled in as the starting center following Peter Konz’s departure for the NFL in 2012. That 2012 college football season proved to be Frederick’s best and he parlayed that in to an early departure for the NFL, becoming a 1st round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
He’s now the anchor to what many consider one of, if not the best offensive line in the pro game today.