Center stage: Groy takes over for Konz
Monday is an off-day for the players and Groy, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound redshirt sophomore from Middleton High School, usually spends that day armed with a bow and arrow, hunting deer in Verona.
“I skipped my normal Monday priority of hunting to watch film,” he said with a grin after practice Tuesday. “It was pretty important.
“I skipped my favorite thing to get a head start on Illinois.”
Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) plays at Illinois (6-4, 2-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday, and with Peter Konz out indefinitely after suffering a dislocated left ankle last week, Groy is poised to make his first start at center.
“I have been waiting,” said Groy, who started two games at fullback last season and one game at left guard this season. “Last year I was backing up guys. This year I was backing up guys, just waiting to get my chance.
“It’s too bad that Pete had to down, but I’ve been waiting to get my chance.”
Replacing a 30-game starter who has seen about every defensive front and blitz package imaginable and has developed trust with guards Kevin Zeitler and Travis Frederick won’t be easy.
“Pete is the best center in college football that I’ve seen play the game,” UW coach Bret Bielema said.
Konz, 6-5 and 315, is mobile and physical.
He is adept at pulling and leading backs through the hole or engaging a defender at the line of scrimmage and moving him off the ball.
“Pete is really a guy that is longer than your normal center but he still plays with great leverage,” offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. “And when you can do that, with that height, you just get that much more extension and movement.”
Bostad believes Groy can match Konz’s athletic ability. He also believes athletic ability alone doesn’t guarantee victory in one-on-one battles in the trenches.
“Ryan knows that stuff doesn’t mean anything if you’re not hitting people and striking people,” he said.
Complicating Groy’s task is that the Illinois front features two outstanding ends and two solid tackles.
Ends Whitney Mercilus (47 tackles, 12½ sacks, 17½ tackles for loss) and Michael Buchanan (51 tackles, six sacks, 11 tackles for loss) are disruptive. Tackles Akeem Spence (55 tackles, one sack, five tackles for loss) and Glenn Foster (22 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss, one interception) are stout.
“They are a great unit,” Groy said. “They have great speed.”
Groy believes he is physically and mentally ready to step in. In his opinion, the No. 1 challenge will be communicating as effectively with rest of the line as Konz does. He has been talking often with Frederick, his roommate for two years and a former center.
“He knows what he is doing,” Groy said. “We watched film the other day. We talked a lot. He is the kind of guy, if I don’t see something, he will put me on the same page.”
After meeting with reporters Tuesday, Groy planned to study video with Konz.
Konz was wearing a protective walking boot and was using crutches Tuesday. He hopes that if UW reaches the Big Ten title game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis he will be healthy enough to play.
“I’m pushing for that, but I don’t know,” Konz said.
Doctors were able to pop the ankle back in place Saturday night, but Konz acknowledged it was a close call. Had they failed to do so he would have faced surgery and could have been sidelined for up to six months.
“I was one of the lucky cases, he said.”
Konz insists Groy is ready to take his place.
“I’ve seen a huge change between last year and this year,” Konz said, “just his ability to understand the defenses.
“Right now, I want to be able to help him be as comfortable as he can. We’re going to watch some film.”
No time for deer hunting.
Sophomore Jared Abbrederis (shoulder) did not practice Tuesday. Abbrederis, UW’s No. 2 wide receiver and return specialist, hopes to practice today.
Sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Garner (pelvis) also did not practice.