The key to Wisconsin's fearsome attack isn't its third-year QB or its Heisman hopeful tailback. The crucial element is the earth-shattering offensive line, the five most talented (and best-fed) protectors in college football
IF SOPHOMORE CENTER Tyler Biadasz had to endure any initiation rites when he became the youngest member of the Red Robin High Council, his fellow Wisconsin offensive linemen aren't revealing any details. "The first rule of Fight Club," senior left guard Michael Deiter says, "is don't talk about Fight Club." That might be the most accessible, decipherable statement from a group that frequently communicates in obscure movie quotes. "Nobody knows what they're talking about except for them," says Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook.
Since coming together in spring 2017, the quintet of Beau Benzschawel, Jon Dietzen, David Edwards, Biadasz and Deiter has been meeting at the local outpost of the burger chain Red Robin once per week. On the field, the unit is one of the most effective offensive lines in college football. Behind it, the Badgers averaged five yards a carry and allowed only 21 sacks last year, as Wisconsin (13--1 in 2017) won the Big Ten's West Division for the second consecutive season. Benzschawel, Deiter and Edwards explored the possibility of entering the NFL draft but quickly decided to return to a Wisconsin team that might finally have enough to win the conference and reach the College Football Playoff.
Along the way, the group will also clear a path for sophomore running back and Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor to take down Melvin Gordon's school record of 2,587 rushing yards. Taylor ran for 1,977 yards last season, as a freshman. During practices before the 2017 opener, he would watch the line open a hole and then wait. "I was hesitant to go through it," Taylor says. "I didn't think a hole was supposed to be that big." But he quickly learned there was no catch, no linebacker lying in wait to clobber him. Says Taylor, "Those guys have got that thing sealed off."
WEIGHT: 319 lbs.
HE IS ... the Caretaker
As a person who stands next to tailback Jonathan Taylor in the huddle, Biadasz is charged with making sure the Badgers' star is relaxed and comfortable before he carries the ball. How? He's taken to giving the running back a trapezius-muscle massage between plays.
WEIGHT: 315 lbs.
HE IS ... the Hulk
Edwards was an option QB at Downers Grove North High near Chicago and signed with Wisconsin as a 245-pound tight end. But thanks to a diet that included two Chipotle burritos at a sitting, he has packed on 70 pounds and is expected to be the first of the group to be drafted.
WEIGHT: 310 lbs.
HE IS ... the Ringleader
Deiter is the one who can quiet the group—or rouse it. He'll start singing along to "Charleston Girl" by Tyler Childers, a scene that usually ends with five 300-pounders singing and dancing, and linebacker T.J. Edwards pleading: "Why do we play this song?"
WEIGHT: 323 lbs.
HE IS ... the Troubadour
When Dietzen jams, he favors a playlist that digs deep into the blues and country. "Tennessee Stud" is one of his favorites. There's no heavy metal, but there is this: Dietzen is sometimes accompanied by 342-pound senior defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu, from Samoa, on ukulele.
WEIGHT: 315 lbs.
HE IS ... the Angler
Though he's occasionally tough to spot—he's often in camouflage—the former high school tight end loves to gather the group on his 18-foot boat to go fishing. The 60-horsepower motor works extra hard to get the 1,582 pounds of Badgers out on Lake Mendota.