It’s 20 minutes after a recent University of Wisconsin football practice and just about everyone has left.
The post-practice media interviews have been conducted, but graduate assistant coach Josh Oglesby continues to work with a group of five young offensive linemen in the north end zone in preparation for today’s game against Tennessee Tech at Camp Randall Stadium.
The drills are fundamental stuff, footwork and hand placement — the kind of things that are vital to playing the position.
They work on it almost every day: Oglesby, a former right tackle for the Badgers, imparting his wisdom on the young guys who make up the future of the program.
When Oglesby finishes and stops for an interview, it is pointed out the future of the program is basically in his hands.
“When you put it that way, maybe I should get them back out here,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Oglesby has dreamed of being a coach since his high school days at St. Francis. Being around Doug Sarver, his prep coach, as well as offensive line coach Bob Bostad and the other coaches during Oglesby’s playing days with the Badgers, fueled the desire. The only thing off was the timing.
“It’s always been something I thought I wanted to do,” Oglesby said. “I just thought it would be after a storied NFL career, that whole dream.”
Instead, Oglesby’s career with the Washington Redskins lasted only a few weeks. An All-Big Ten Conference first-team selection as a senior in 2011, Oglesby signed as a free agent with the Redskins, the only team that would medically clear him after six surgeries essentially left him without any cartilage in both knees.
“I failed 31 of the 32 physicals, just because of my knees,” Oglesby said.
The swelling returned and it was a situation that was only going to get worse. It made sense for both sides to part ways after the team’s rookie minicamp.
“It was kind of a deal where, one, it’s not good for me long term,” Oglesby said. “And, two, it wasn’t good monetarily for them to put money into a beat-down car, you know what I mean?”
It was Katherine Oglesby, Josh’s mom, who quickly put the disappointment into perspective.
“My mom really kind of affirmed it for me,” Oglesby said of his decision to go into coaching. “After what happened with the NFL, just saying, ‘Your plight may be someone else’s blessing,’ in the sense of being able to give what I know about the game back.”
The timing, it turned out, could not have been better for the Badgers.
A link to the past
T.J. Woods is the team’s new offensive line coach, having come with coach Gary Andersen from Utah State.
“The best thing about Josh, to me, is he’s been able to kind of link the past and the present in that (offensive line) room,” Woods said. “I think that’s a huge deal.
“While I know coach Bostad and I hold him in high regard — I look up to him and I try my best to be as good a coach as he is — to be quite honest, I never played for him. I never coached with him. And I wasn’t here through all of those great, glorious years.
“Josh was. He was very much a part of it and was a leader at times. For me, it’s a huge asset to have a guy like that, who knows where these guys have been.”
Cornerbacks coach Ben Strickland, another former UW player, knew Oglesby wanted to get into coaching and lined up the interview with Woods. That went well and an endorsement from Bostad sealed it.
“I can’t thank coach Bo enough,” Oglesby said. “All of those times he was yelling at me, I guess he really did care.”
Bostad, now the offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had a highly successful run at UW as an assistant coach from 2006 to 2011, coaching tight ends the first two years and the offensive line the last four.
Woods has done his best to meld the old with the new, using many of the same techniques and drills used under Bostad and adding his own touches.
“Coach Woods is kind of cut from that same tree,” Oglesby said. “He wants to be as physical as we possibly can up front. I know everyone talks about it, but it’s a select group that actually knows how to get it done and he’s in that group.”
Oglesby’s roots in the program aren’t just important for the offensive linemen he works with, but also the seniors on a veteran team, such as linebacker Chris Borland and tailback James White.
“It’s just important that there is somewhat of an old face among all of the new things,” Oglesby said. “Just the link between where we were and where we’re going to be. That’s big for some of the older guys in the program … pretty much our great players. I’m happy I’m a link between old and new.”
Lessons from Bostad
When Oglesby was playing, the linemen used to keep a notebook filled with the sayings Bostad was known for in meetings: “You look like you’re a cat on a hot tin roof,” when a player was bouncing all around; or, if the defense did something new, “That doesn’t make a hill of beans compared to what we’re trying to get done.”
But the players’ favorite was when the offense put receivers in motion across the formation and faked handoffs, or other things designed to confuse the defense, which Bostad called “putting earrings on a pig.”
Now, Oglesby will catch himself repeating something Bostad used to say and wonder, “Where did that come from?”
During detailed discussions with Woods, Oglesby realizes how much he picked up under Bostad.
“Like I learned from coach Bo, there are only so many hours in a day,” Oglesby said. “You’ve got to suck up every hour you can to get better at your craft. To see those young guys want to do that (stay after practice) is huge for me. Having the ability to help them with that is even bigger.”
Due to the lack of scholarship depth on the offensive line, those young players could be needed sooner, rather than later. So, there is some urgency to the work being done after practice.
“We need those guys to develop,” Woods said. “It’s not a matter of wanting them to develop, we have to have those guys develop.”
While some fans have predicted an end to UW’s offensive line dominance, Oglesby scoffs at the suggestion. He’s encouraged by top players such as senior left guard Ryan Groy and junior right tackle Rob Havenstein, as well as the young players putting in the extra work, such as redshirt freshman center Dan Voltz and true freshman tackle Hayden Biegel.