When a team puts forth a 83-20 shellacking of a conference foe there is plenty of credit to go around. Wisconsin, without potential All-American running back John Clay, received a dominant performance from their offensive line and simply pounded Indiana into submission on Saturday. It was an offensive display that Wisconsin hadn't matched in nearly a century.
After reviewing dozens of prospects across the country over the weekend, the indelible impression made by the Badgers' offensive line in this game was simply too much for me to ignore.
Though he was held out of the second half of this game with a minor leg injury, left tackle Gabe Carimi was the driving force behind Wisconsin's most impressive quarter -- the second -- against the Hoosiers. It was in this quarter that the Badgers pulled away from Indiana. While the final scoreboard is certainly proof to the contrary, the Hoosiers were competitive early in this contest, tying the score at 10 points each in the early minutes of the second quarter.
However, an injury to Indiana's starting quarterback Ben Chappell and with the Badgers often operating on a short field, the rout was on.
Wisconsin offensive lineman are often typecast as simply drive-blockers. In this contest there were certainly examples of Carimi doing just that. He played with good leverage and leg drive when doing so. It was the mobility and balance with which he blocked downfield and protected the edge in pass protection, however that is why he'll be a first round draft pick this April.
Wisconsin rarely asks their All-Big Ten left tackle to pull, but an example of Carimi doing exactly that came with 5:05 in second quarter. Carimi, showing very good initial quickness, balance and surprising agility, latched on to Indiana weakside linebacker Leon Beckum and cleared the way for James White's 30-yard touchdown that extended Wisconsin's second quarter lead to 24-10 over a Hoosier team that had battled the Badgers step for step early.
Carimi was just as impressive in the passing game.
Carimi eases back into his pass set, demonstrating quick feet and balance. Despite his height, he plays with good knee bend, giving him the leverage to handle the bull rush. This had been an area he'd received low grades from scouts earlier in the year. The four year starter who took over for 2008 No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas, plays with similar awareness as the Cleveland Browns' star. Carimi is a patient blocker who allows the defender to come to him whereas inexperienced pass blockers often lunge at defenders and find themselves unbalanced.
His awareness was demonstrated in Wisconsin's 4-yard touchdown pass with only 21 seconds left in the second quarter. Carimi made an initial block of a Hoosier defensive lineman, stoning him with a strong initial pop, before switching over to a blitzing linebacker to give Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien plenty of time to fire the touchdown to Nick Toon.