Camping With the Badgers 2013: Offensive Line

This may be the most anonymous group of Wisconsin offensive linemen in several years. Ryan Groy is on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is give to the nation’s top interior lineman, but I, for one, can’t remember him being particularly memorable last season. Basically, I’d like to forget most of last season’s offensive line experience. Can we agree to that?

Good News:

There’s a pretty clear-cut idea of who will be the starting five road graders for the Badgers in Week One. Four of the five played in at least four games last year. The fifth, redshirt freshman Dan Voltz, was able to get his body and mind ready for the B1G last year while also learning the nuances of the center position from a first-round NFL draft pick (Travis Frederick).

Size won’t be an issue; the expected front wave’s average height is 6’5.5 and with one more trip to the buffet their median weight will be 318 pounds.

Bad News:

There’s some position-shifting going on within the line, there were a lot of injuries in the spring, and the unit as a whole is on its third position coach in one calendar year (and fourth in just over a year).

There’s no can’t-miss, surefire stud like Peter Konz, Gabe Carimi or Joe Thomas grabbing headlines and preseason accolades coming into the year. The line has to replace NFL draftees Travis Frederick (Center) and Ricky Wagner (Left Tackle). These two spots are probably the most important spots on the line, since the center snaps the ball and usually makes decisions for the entire line regarding shifts and responsibilities, and the left tackle protects the quarterback’s blind side.

Questions Entering Fall Camp:

Can a freshman make all the right moves?

Dan Voltz is the only projected starter that did not play at all last season; he followed in the footsteps of most linemen at UW and redshirted his first season. The other four projected starters all used a redshirt year to adjust their mental and physical approaches to the college game. Voltz will look to use the mold created by Peter Konz, who redshirted his first year on campus and started nine games in his first year of playing time in 2009, when he earned freshman All-American honors. Although Voltz will have plenty of responsibility, Konz showed that age is just a number, and if you’re mentally and physically ready to contribute, you can succeed.

Left Side, Strong Side?

Wisconsin will be breaking in a new left tackle this season, and it’s most likely going to be redshirt senior Ryan Groy, who will be moving over from left guard. Groy is on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, because basically every left tackle that has started for Wisconsin during the past 8-10 years has been on that list before the season. Redshirt junior Dallas Lewallen has seen action every season at Wisconsin so far, but he has appeared in just 6 games, all as a backup. He looks to take over the left guard spot if Groy hops to left tackle. Lewallen was the 2010 Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, so he does have talent and a strong work ethic.

Other Players to Watch:

Rob Havenstein - 6-foot-8, 338 pounds, RS junior. He started at right tackle all 14 games of last season, and Havenstein is absolutely enormous. He has great size and is a prototypical tackle, while he still has good agility for his size and can pull and get to the next level. Havenstein seemed to struggle to pass block consistently, so he will need to develop more in that area this year. Nfldraftscout.com currently lists Havenstein as the 15th-best tackle in the NFL draft class of 2015.

Kyle Costigan - 6-foot-4, 304 pounds, RS junior. He made the switch from defense to offense in the spring of 2012, and made his first start at right guard against UTEP last September. Costigan fared well enough to start the final nine games there, including the B1G Championship and the Rose Bowl Game. He should be even better than last year, since he’s had a full offseason to adjust to his new role. This was a great decision by the previous coaching staff, and Gary Andersen should be happy that he doesn’t need to worry about finding a right guard for the next two seasons.

Overall:

The line is unproven, and there have been injuries that limited the group in spring practice. Rest assured, however, that the buffet destroyers taking over at one of the most tradition-rich position groups in the nation will hold fast to the Wisconsin O-Line history just like a fitted sheet holds to a mattress. This group is chock-full of potential, and if they mesh with Coach Woods early, they should be a very effective group in 2013.

Projected Depth Chart:

Position

1st team

2nd team

Left Tackle

Ryan Groy

Tyler Marz

Left Guard

Dallas Lewallen

Ray Ball

Center

Dan Voltz

Jacob Ninneman

Right Guard

Kyle Costigan

Zac Matthias

Right Tackle

Rob Havenstein

Walker Williams

 

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