Another day, another look in to the Badgers roster as spring practice begins tomorrow. Yesterday we looked at the undervalued importance that special teams can have on a season, but today we get down to business on the offensive side of the ball.
Wisconsin has seen an offensive lineman drafted in to the NFL in five of the last seven years, including each of the last three. It's just part of why the UW has become "Offensive Line U," according to many.
There won't be a shortage of quality players along the Badgers offensive line in 2014, as the Badgers only replace one starter—guard Ryan Groy. However they do return five players with valuable starting experience.
So, it may seem like spring won' be that big of a deal for the offensive line, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Spring of 2014 is going to be all about adding valuable depth along what is truly a young offensive line.
Let's dig in to the offensive line this spring.
Lost, But Not Forgotten: Chris Gill, Zac Matthais, Ryan Groy
Starter(s) Still Here: Tyler Marz (LT), Dallas Lewallen (RG/C), Dan Voltz (C), Kyle Costigan (LG), Rob Havenstein (RT)
New Faces for Spring: Jaden Gault (T), Michael Deiter (G/C), Aidan McNamara, Ben Hemer, Hayden Beigel
McNamara, Hemer and Beigel were all around the program last fall, but this will be their first spring with the team. Gault and Deiter come in as early enrollees for the 2014 season and both will see extensive time. Deiter will have the most action of the two this spring with both Dallas Lewallen and Dan Voltz out for the spring. It's a great opportunity to learn by fire for the young 3-star recruit, and if he plays well it could mean some major minutes in the rotation this fall.
Battles to Be Had: Depth
Having five offensive linemen with starting experience doesn't mean there can't be competition for spots on this line. In fact, with Lewallen and Voltz both out it means there will be even more competition. While both are likely locked in to starting roles, UW is looking to find some quality depth. Last season Wisconsin was down to eight healthy offensive linemen at most times.
The coaching staff made it clear on national signing day that that would have to change and quickly. Enter the guys mentioned above. 4-star tackle Jaden Gault is one of the names to watch this spring, as he has a real shot to earn a quick spot on the two-deep at tackle. Opposite of him it will be interesting to watch the development of redshirt sophomore Walker Williams, who spent last season behind the dependable Rob Havenstein.
Booth need to show they will be ready to step in to Havenstein's role at a moments notice (or in 2015 in the best case scenario). There also needs to be more quality depth developed up the middle of the line, especially since the only returning player from the two-deep that won't start from last year is junior Ray Ball.
Most of the depth won't come until the summer though, as three more offensive linemen arrive on campus to help bolster the group.
Name to Watch: Michael Deiter
As if coming in to college directly out of high school and learning the ways of campus life weren't hard enough, try adding in the coaching staff telling you you'll be the starting center and/or guard this spring. That's the life of early enrollee Michael Deiter this spring though.
There may not be a more important player outside of the quarterback battle (save that till later this week) on the Badger roster in spring ball this year. Deiter has an opportunity to showcase his skills right off the bat, and that is a rare opportunity along the offensive line at Wisconsin. If he shows well, it could mean major minutes for him come the fall, but if not one has to wonder how a youngster rebounds for a setback.
Keeping an eye on Deiter's production in camp will be a wise decision for those who like to single out certain players to watch.
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