With players and staff reporting for fall camp tomorrow, we've come to the end of our positional previews series and it's only fitting that we end with the group that holds the key to the Wisconsin offense - the offensive line.
It's a unit full of talent, but with a lot of question marks heading into Monday's first practice thanks to departures, ineligibility, and injury. So, let's dive right into things on our final position group!
RT: Rob Havenstein (RS So., 6'8", 343lbs.)
RG: Robert Burge/Kyle Costigan/Dallas Lewellan
C: Travis Frederick (RS Jr., 6'4", 328lbs.)
LG: Ryan Groy (RS Jr., 6'5", 322lbs.)
LT: Ricky Wagner (RS Sr., 6'322lbs.)
Thoughts on the Unit:
The more things change, the more they stay the same? That is the question that must be answered by the 2012 offensive line group. Once again the Badgers are replacing - I mean reloading on the offensive line after Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler were selected in the draft and Josh Oglesby signed a free agent contract.
Then there is also the whole coaching change thing... Gone is Bob Bostad who briefly spent some time as the Pitt offensive coordinator before taking the offensive line coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his place is a veteran o-line coach in Mike Markusan who's previous stops were Ole Miss and most recently Arkansas.
The left side of the 2012 Badgers line should be very good as Wagner and Frederick are both garnering preseaon award nominations and watch lists and Ryan Groy has a ton of talent as well as some experience starting late last season thanks to the injury to Konz.
Rob Havenstein has been competing for the starting right tackle spot on the offensive line since he joined the program and after sitting out this spring due to shoulder surgery he just needs to stay healthy as he's gotten plenty of playing time and could be the next "great one" following Wagner and Frederick as potential stars on the offensive line. He just needs to prove he can be healthy enough to play every week.
The main issue comes at right guard where the Badgers are looking at the possibility of having to start a walk-on in Burge, or a converted defensive lineman in Kyle Costigan, or the injured Dallas Lewellan - who's coming off a broken knee cap.
Finding a solid starter there is going to be key because the Badgers have enough talent at the skill positions to be an explosive offense, but with three new starters on the line they will need to find who fits right chemistry wise.
Costigan is the biggest wild-card in the group and it shouldn't come as a surprise if he were to win the position by the end of camp. He came in originally as an offensive line recruit that was convinced to fill a need on the defensive line, but made the switch back in the spring at the behest of Bielema and Markusan, who both saw his talent on the offensive line being greater.
They both heaped praise on Costigan's rise through the ranks in the spring, so coming into camp with a full summer of work with the offensive line unit and in the weight room will be something to keep an eye on early in camp.
Overall, watching the chemistry build between Markusan and the entire group of offensive lineman is going to be fun to watch.
Other Players to Watch:
C - Dan Voltz: The early entrant freshman was probably the top rated recruit the Badgers got in the 2012 class and by all indications he's the center of the future. He may not be called into action, but watching his progress in camp and knowing if something happens to Frederick during the year that we have a capable backup is worth noting.
Tackle - Walker Williams: Williams is also a freshman, but he could be a tackle of the future and this camp will be our first look at him in a Badgers uniform. Wagner will need to be replaced next season and watching his progress could also be worth noting for future reference.