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Kerrigan next test for O-line

November 4, 2010 Comments off

MADISON – In putting together a list of the top defensive linemen in the Big Ten, four names quickly come to mind: Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Ryan Kerrigan and J.J. Watt.

Of those four, Wisconsin has faced two, Heyward and Clayborn, in their two biggest wins of the season over then-No. 1 Ohio State and at Iowa. Watt, of course, lines up at defensive end on a weekly basis for the Badgers, earning a number of national honors in recent weeks.

That leaves Kerrigan, the Purdue Boilermakers defensive end, and the third in a line of three straight high-profile defensive stars on the schedule for UW. While the other three may get more press, Kerrigan could very well be the best of the bunch.

“To this day, I think that Ryan Kerrigan, their defensive end, is probably one of the premier players in our league,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. “I really thought last year he was at a whole other level. [He] plays extremely hard, extremely gifted.”

Through eight games this season, Kerrigan leads the Big Ten in several defensive categories, including sacks with 7.5 and tackles for loss with 18.5. Ranking fourth and second in those categories, respectively, is Watt with five sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Kerrigan’s three forced fumbles also tie him with Michigan State’s Greg Jones for the most in the conference, with the Boilermakers having played one fewer game than MSU. With 49 tackles and a 6.1 tackles per game average, Kerrigan is 21st in the conference, while Watt ranks 47th.

“I probably went up against him once or twice, maybe,” said John Moffitt, referring to Kerrigan. “Obviously he’s very strong, and he’s got a little bit of speed to him, too. He’s not just a bull rush guy. He’s a good player, he plays hard and that’s evident when you watch him on film for sure.”

Against the Badgers, the top performer among Heyward, Clayborn and Kerrigan last season was Kerrigan, who had a game-high nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

In his last two games against UW, Clayborn has 11 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks. For Heyward, the last two battles against Wisconsin have yielded nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and one sack.

Having faced all three, how does Gabe Carimi assess their abilites?

“I’d say Heyward is more of a bull [rusher], Clayborn would be a speed and bull guy, and Kerrigan is a motor guy,” Carimi said. “He’ll keep driving his legs, moving around, ripping under and twisting his body. I think he gives unbelievable effort on film and that’s why I think he might be a better defensive end.”

Having come away with victories over the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes this season, while limiting Heyward and Clayborn along the way, the Badgers now turn their focus toward Kerrigan and the Boilermakers.

While they certainly respect Kerrigan and consider him among the conference’s elite, the Wisconsin offensive line has plenty of reason to believe they’ll come out on top when they head to West Lafayette, Ind., for Saturday’s contest.

“I know he’s a great defensive end, and I think he is the best in the conference,” Carimi said. “But I’m coming in there with a little bit of confidence and trying to pull out a solid performance against him.”nd, ripping under and twisting his body. I think he gives unbelievable effort on film and that’s why I think he might be a better defensive end.”

Having come away with victories over the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes this season, while limiting Heyward and Clayborn along the way, the Badgers now turn their focus toward Kerrigan and the Boilermakers.

While they certainly respect Kerrigan and consider him among the conference’s elite, the Wisconsin offensive line has plenty of reason to believe they’ll come out on top when they head to West Lafayette, Ind., for Saturday’s contest.

“I know he’s a great defensive end, and I think he is the best in the conference,” Carimi said. “But I’m coming in there with a little bit of confidence and trying to pull out a solid performance against him.”

Clay, Bielema focused on offensive line before OSU

October 18, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Standing behind John Clay with his helmet off Saturday, you’d see the following numbers in his head: 68, 74, 66, 70 and 58. Lining up in the Wisconsin backfield, Clay sees the same set of numbers every time he takes the ball.

It took Clay about 20 minutes of work in the barbershop to show his appreciation for what his teammates do. Within the game’s first five minutes, Clay was thanking them again.

Clay burst through a big hole created by the Wisconsin offensive line and rushed 14 yards for the touchdown. Less than 12 minutes of game time later, Clay found the end zone again. As the Badgers led 21-0 over the No. 1 team in the nation, hard work by Clay and the offensive line paid off in a big way.

“He practiced as hard as I’ve ever seen him practice and really executed ball security, and he gave the tribute to the five offensive linemen, shaving their numbers in his head,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said of Clay. “It was a way of John saying, ‘I respect what you guys have done.’ His success is a lot about what they do, so again, just a good example of team chemistry.”

Wisconsin’s offensive line guided Clay to 104 yards rushing on 21 carries, as well as those two first half touchdowns.

Afterward, as he does after every game, Clay credited his success to the hard work up front by Peter Konz, John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler and Ricky Wagner.

“I just told them they’ve been working hard for me all week and this whole year, so I told them I’d do something special when the big game came,” Clay said. “It worked out in a good way.”

With the Badgers facing one of the toughest defensive lines in the country in Ohio State, Clay was not the only one focused on the offensive line this week.

Knowing the battle in the trenches could very easily determine the outcome of the game against the top-ranked Buckeyes, the head coach looked to give his front five a little added motivation.

“I did challenge them,” Bielema said. “I don’t do that very often as a head coach. I don’t want to set kids up for failure. If I do something like that, it’s usually that I have a really strong belief that it’s going to come through.

“Everybody made a big deal about the 29 games that Ohio State had played without a 100-yard rusher. I threw it in those guys’ faces all week. I threw it at our running backs, but it all starts up front for us. For us to have success, we have to play well at the offensive line.”

Konz, Moffitt, Carimi, Zeitler and Wagner answered the challenge in a big way. Not only did they pave the way for Clay to become the first opposing player in 30 games to rush for 100 yards or more against OSU, they also kept their quarterback upright.

Attempting 16 passes on the day, Scott Tolzien was not sacked a single time. But did the offensive line need to challenged?

“I don’t know. I mean, that’s a good question,” Moffitt answered. “We play our game and we always try to play our game. Obviously, when the head coach calls you out, you just have to raise the bar, and I think that’s what we did.

“It feels great. We did the right things and we won the game.”

Football feature 11/18

November 18, 2009 Comments off

Clay’s success could mean buffets for O-linemen

By Jordan Schelling
The Badger Herald