Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 8/14/12

In today’s age of college football, a big beastly offensive line is pretty much synonymous with the Wisconsin Badgers. With each year here and gone, the Badgers maintain one of the best units in the country, never showing any sign of slowing down.

This season’s big man on campus and leader of the offensive line is senior left guard Ricky Wagner (literally the big man on campus at 6-6 and 317 pounds) who has some legendary shoes to fill at the position.

I had a chance to catch up with Wagner at Badgers Media Day to talk about where he thinks his career is heading and what the offensive line has in store for an exciting 2012 season.

Wisconsin’s previous two starting left guards, Gabe Carimi (pictured above) and Joe Thomas, are considered two of the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the college game. During their senior seasons, Thomas (2006) and Carimi (2010) were both able to take home the Outland Trophy, an award given out annually to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman.

With Carimi’s departure to the NFL in 2010 (first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears), the Badgers’ offensive line was sure to have a drop-off, but as Wagner suggests, they were able to “reload” and he started all 14 games in 2011 at the left guard position, earning a consensus honorable mention for the All-Big Ten Team and helping Wisconsin reach their second consecutive Rose Bowl.

Similar to 2010, this year’s Badgers will reload after the departures of All-Americans Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz, but this is nothing new in Madison where a new set of young and talented lineman are always willing to battle it out in the trenches and lead the way for  Heisman candidate Montee Ball.

What is new at UW is a slew of new coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Matt Canada and offensive line coach Mike Markuson, a topic Wagner touched upon at Media Day.

“There was a little transition with the new staff during the Spring, but that is over now and we’re full speed ahead. We’ve gotten used to the new personalities and we think that period of transition is over,” said Wagner.

Wagner feels he’s been put in a position to be a leader on the offensive line.

“I do believe I’m a leader on this line and I show that with my actions on the field. It’s very important to get all you can out of practice because a you never know when you will have to step in and start,” a sentiment that should be oh so familiar for the senior tackle.

Wagner emerged early in his career, playing in 12 games during his sophomore season (red-shirted his freshman year) and gradually became the most experienced lineman on the team, now with 38 games experience under his belt.

He’ll use everything he’s learned from those 38 games to motivate himself for a successful season this year, including a trip back to Indianapolis.

“I think we all want to get back to that Big Ten Championship game. That was such a great experience. I would like to finish up my senior year by going back there. It was my top moment in my career, I would love to duplicate it.”

On a more personal level, Wagner wants to follow in the footsteps of the greats behind him.

When asked what his main goal for the season is, he said, “I want to win the Outland Trophy, I want to be the best tackle in the nation.”

However, he knows it won’t be that easy.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into that, it’s important to take it one practice at a time and one game at a time.”

Wagner wouldn’t speculate on where he thinks he fits in the pro game, but he’s a for sure top three rounds kind of pick. If he has a solid and consistent senior season, there’s no reason he doesn’t shoot up the draft boards.

Do you think Wagner has what it takes to win the Outland Trophy? Let me know by commenting below!

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.


Ricky Wagner (uwbadgers.com)

Gabe Carimi w/ Outland Trophy (collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com)




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