I linked up with Jake Kocorowski of Bucky's 5th Quarter, the SB Nation community for fans of the Wisconsin Badgers to get some info on the Rams second-rounds pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, Rob Havenstein.
So first off, tell me who the Rams are getting in Rob Havenstein. What are the key skills he excelled in that made him such a coveted prospect? What separates him, or likens him, from some of the recent Wisconsin OTs who have jumped to the NFL in Ricky Wagner, Gabe Carimi and Joe Thomas?
When you first look at Rob Havenstein, you notice a mammoth of a man. Like Carimi, he's 6'7 (listed at 6'8 when at UW) and weighed into the NFL Combine at 321 pounds. If you're looking for a linemen who can run block and finish, Havenstein's your guy. Though he underperformed at the combine, he made up for it with increasing his bench count by 4 to 20 during pro day and had a great week at the Senior Bowl -- but also, we charted out former Badgers performances at the combine and realized guys like Travis Frederick and others didn't perform as well either and have gone on to success in the NFL. He's more athletic on the field when looking at game film than those gym stats show, and many scouting reports have noted that. Havenstein had the distinction of not having a holding call last year, and only gave up 2.5 sacks so he's at the very least solid against pass rushers. He was also a leader on that offensive line -- and on the team in general. It seemed like every week during media availability on Mondays, Havenstein would consistently be one of the four players talking with reporters.
He does join a long line of Badger alums in the NFL -- less heralded coming out of Wisconsin than Thomas and Carimi, while a bit higher than Wagner. The key similarities between all four you mentioned is they were multi-year starters on the Badgers' offensive line, and all had strengths in run blocking (which isn't surprising). I'd liken him more to Carimi and Wagner than Thomas. The difference between the three is that Havenstein predominantly played right tackle throughout his career, while Carimi, Wagner and Thomas played on the left side of the line (Wagner did start out at right tackle before transitioning to left tackle when Carimi left). Both NFL.com draft profiles of Wagner and Havenstein noted they seemed a bit high in their stances, but Wagner's holding down the right tackle position with the Baltimore Ravens currently -- I'm not too concerned. I think Havenstein will have a better career than Carimi (though less multi-faceted with the former first-round pick playing multiple positions on the line last year for Atlanta), but on par or a little better than Wagner.
Many Rams fans see Havenstein going straight into the starting RT role. Do you think he's got any versatility to kick inside or fill in on the left side? Was he ever asked to do so with the Badgers?
Havenstein's purely a right tackle, as all 42 career starts were anchoring that position. There were opportunities to move Havenstein to left tackle after Wagner left, but the Wisconsin coaching staff kept him on the right side of the line while guys like now-Chicago Bears guard Ryan Groy and ultimately Tyler Marz took over on the left side. Even when Marz struggled against Penn State during the last game of the 2013 regular season, Groy moved out from left guard to left tackle and Havenstein did not move. I don't know if he's as versatile as a Carimi or Thomas to move to the left side or the line, or like Carimi has done, move inside. NFL.com's Mike Mayock noted he was a just a right tackle only, and I think he'll play there for many years as a significant contributor to the Rams newly revamped running game.
What's your favorite moment of Rob Havenstein and the offensive line during his time in Madison?
The one that stands out is Gordon's 408-yard rushing performance against Nebraska this past November. I covered the game, and watching from the press box, I haven't seen a more dominant performance where Gordon, on every carry, seemed he could have broke a run for a big gain. Fun stat on that game: Nebraska came in with the No. 20 ranked rushing defense. Afterwards, they stood 73rd. It's a credit to Gordon, obviously for out-running defenders and getting to the second and third levels of the defense, but also a huge credit to Havenstein and a guy like right guard Kyle Costigan. The offensive line faced mostly eight or nine defenders in the box in that game (and for the majority of the year with a passing game ranked 116th in the FBS) and they were able to put bodies on bodies, helmets on helmets at the first and second levels of the Huskers' defense. That left Gordon to do what he does best, and it was a historic game.
Second moment would have to be the 2015 Outback Bowl. Nearly a month after being embarrassed 59-0 by Ohio State, then Gary Andersen bolting to Oregon State without even visiting Corvallis, Ore., and having yet another coaching change, the Badgers ran for 400 yards and upset Auburn in overtime 34-31. Gordon and now-junior Corey Clement ran for 251 and 105 yards, respectively, which some could consider a #Karma moment after Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne threw shade at Wisconsin's running game and how he would have loved to have played against the likes of Purdue and Northwestern. It was a great rebound victory and way for both Havenstein and Gordon to go out winners after an at-times weird season.
This season as a whole was memorable for Wisconsin's offensive line. Aside from Gordon nearly breaking Barry Sanders' FBS single-season record, now-junior Corey Clement was only 51 yards away from 1,000 -- and quarterback (now-safety and wide receiver) Tanner McEvoy racked up 574 yards rushing (8.8 yards per carry average), which was a Wisconsin record for a quarterback. In total, the Badgers ran for 4,482 yards in 2014, breaking the record set just a year prior.
What is something you didn't expect of Rob Havenstein going into 2010 that surprised you over his five years? Or maybe something after that monster offensive season in 2013 having transcended his general recruiting rankings?
I think his body transformation is most surprising. Havenstein came into Wisconsin at nearly 380 pounds, and on Wisconsin Athletics' official website, he weighed 333 pounds during his senior year. During Senior Bowl workouts in January, he weighed about 332 -- and at the NFL Combine, down to 321. Though some still say when you look at him, he may have some work to do in the weight room, you can't deny how he's progressed and how he became another great example of the Badgers' offensive line tradition
Besides his body, his athleticism was something surprising. Just when you watch the film and how he gets off the line of scrimmage, he plays "faster" on the field. He was a 247 Sports composite 3-star linemen, and from what I remember (I didn't cover Wisconsin football as "media" until 2013), that he was already known for his enormous size but also athleticism -- he lettered in basketball in high school.
Other than that, Wisconsin's been known to churn out NFL-quality offensive linemen. Despite working with four different offensive line coaches in his five years at Wisconsin (Bob Bostad, Mike Markuson, Bart Miller and T.J. Woods), he continued to learn from all of them and enhance his game to be a Day Two pick.
Despite being an NFL blogger, I love college football. Prime me for Wisconsin football in 2015. With Melvin Gordon and three offensive linemen departing, what are you expecting from the offense this year? Joel Stave struggled big time in his final two games of 2014. Is he a lock to start in 2015? What's the ceiling for the defense?
After Andersen's departure, former Wisconsin player and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst came home to Madison. With Chryst's homecoming also comes the re-introduction of a true pro-style offense that produced some of the best Badgers offenses in school history in 2010 and 2011. Both sides of the ball pretty much have their starters set, but the one thing that needs watching is the depth in the two- and three-deep. There should be more balance within the offense, and Stave will be the starter for 2015 unless he's injured during summer conditioning/fall camp. He's 21-7 as a starter, and though he's struggled at times, there's no one with the game experience that he has. Under Chryst's tutelage, he has the opportunity to grow further than before, but Chryst did note after the spring game a couple of weeks back that he needs to trust the offense more -- something that the head coach believes the former walk-on can grow into with his receivers during summer conditioning. Stave will make some mistakes in games, but I think he'll make greater strides this upcoming season.
There's no doubt who's the starter at running back, as Clement has the potential to be the next great Badgers back, but who is the back-up is up for grabs between redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal and walk-on Dare Ogunbowale. The offensive line definitely needs to reload, and many have noted there are concerns with depth. Gone are Havenstein, Costigan and guard/center Dallas Lewallen, and there will be inexperience and some probable growing pains. Redshirt sophomore Hayden Biegel will need to step up in Havenstein's shoes at right tackle, and many don't expect production levels similar to Havenstein's -- at least for now. Both center Dan Voltz and left guard Ray Ball were injured at the end of spring practice, leaving redshirt freshman Michael Dieter, who was working at right guard with the first-team, to slide over to center. The past two seasons, there's been concerns about the depth at the two-deep, but then again, Wisconsin had two of its highest rushing seasons in school history. If everyone can get healthy, the line should be solid with Tyler Marz at left tackle and Voltz at center anchoring it.
The defense, with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, should stay fast in its one-gap 3-4 scheme. The outside linebackers in Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert and the secondary should be its strengths. There were concerns heading into camp at inside linebacker with Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch graduating (177 tackles, 28 TFLs, 12.5 sacks in 2014 combined). However, junior Leon Jacobs and redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards have solidified at least their positions in the first-team defense. Depth in the two-deep is still an issue there. The defensive line lost Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski, but there are players with ample game experience that should thrive in its second year in this one-gap scheme.