Wisconsin Badgers beat writer Jesse Temple will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Badgers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
No. 9 — Rob Havenstein, right tackle
Why he’s No. 9
We’ve seen Badgers offensive linemen get scooped up in the NFL Draft by the handful over the years. Travis Frederick, Ricky Wagner, Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz, Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Bill Nagy all have been drafted since 2011. And when the 2015 draft arrives, you can bet Rob Havenstein will be added to the list of Wisconsin players hearing their names called.
Havenstein is as intimidating as any lineman you’ll see: a 6-foot-8, 327-pounder who is light on his feet and has continued to improve each year at Wisconsin. He was a second-team all-Big Ten pick by the coaches last season and an honorable mention pick by the media. With Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan gone to the NFL, don’t be surprised if Havenstein earns first-team all-conference honors at tackle in 2014.
Havenstein has more game experience than any other player on Wisconsin’s roster, so he’ll be counted on to lead an offensive line that should once again be a dominant force. He has appeared in 40 career games with 28 starts, and he has not missed a start in each of the past two seasons.
Basically, the less you hear about Havenstein on game day, the better Wisconsin will be. That means he’ll do his job, take care of would-be tacklers and protect the Badgers quarterbacks from hard hits. In almost any situation, Havenstein should have an advantage on his opponent because he is both big and agile.
Offensive line coach TJ Woods described Havenstein as a "big, physical, nasty dude" last season. But he noted there was more to him than simply his mass.
"Rob’s agility for his size is elite," Woods said last season. "He’s moving a lot of mass, a lot of body. With Rob, it’s been maturing into a veteran player, and he’s done a great job at that and really becoming dominant and not just good. I think he’s starting to do that, too."
What would they do without him?
Wisconsin has improved its offensive line depth in Year 2 of the Gary Andersen era. But Havenstein is the cream of the crop on the line, and the Badgers don’t want to think about what his absence would mean. Walker Williams and Jaden Gault are a couple of tackles on the roster, but Gault has been recovering from knee surgery and Williams has played in just one career game.