Fall camp enters day three and we give you our third 2014 preseason preview…imagine how that happened, right?
Up next on our way to giving you a quality look at the Wisconsin Badgers heading in to the grind of fall camp is a look at the offensive line. It’s a staple of what UW football is all about, but in recent years the depth has taken a hit.
This fall camp will go a long way to proving if depth still is a concern or what this line will need to do to get to a point where the coaching staff feels comfortable with what will come out of the tunnel each week.
So, let’s get right in to the offensive line preview, shall we?
What We Know:
– There may not be a better starting five along an offensive line in the Big Ten. Rob Havenstein and Tyler Marz are staples at tackle and both have NFL futures in front of them, while in the middle UW could have two of the best interior linemen in the Big Ten in Kyle Costigan and Dan Voltz. Costigan was just ranked as the N0. 2 guard in the Big Ten by 247Sports, while Voltz ranked as the No. 3 center as just a sophomore. Wisconsin’s offensive line is loaded with talent, now if it could just stay completely healthy…
– Freshmen will need to step up to help provide depth. If there was one complaint about the offensive line when head coach Gary Andersen came in to the program it was that the offensive line lacked depth. To that end the Badgers signed a big class of OL in 2014. It got a glimpse of some of that depth this spring when Michael Dieter stepped up to play starting guard and center in the absence of Costigan and Voltz. He held his own and if UW gets two more of the freshmen to step up the depth problem will be solved, and quickly.
What We Need to Find Out:
– Is Walker Williams ready to take over at tackle:
Wisconsin has been lucky to have Rob Havenstein be a relatively healthy offensive lineman throughout his career. He’s started all 28 of the last 28 games and has played a role in every game of his career to date. Yet, should the worst happen and Havenstein goes down, it will be up to redshirt sophomore Walker Williams to likely take over the duties. At the same time, Williams’ role as the primary backup at right tackle isn’t a given and he will be challenged by redshirt freshman Hayden Biegel. If Williams can hold off that challenge look for him to have a long-term future as Havenstein’s replacement at right tackle.
– Can Costigan and Voltz stay healthy:
There’s little doubt that Kyle Costigan and Dan Voltz are two of the better talents as interior linemen in the Big Ten. However, there’s little doubt both need to go through fall camp without any injuries too. Playing with nicks, bruises and the occasional turned ankle isn’t what we’re talking about. The duo have both had nagging injuries in their careers so far, and both are coming off of offseason surgeries that kept them out of spring football. Clearly the coaching staff loves what both bring to the table, but they can only reach full potential if they stay healthy. UW’s chances for an even more impressive run game rely on those two being in the game full-time.
– Is George Panos ready to step up early:
Wisconsin found out it had a reliable freshman in spring, with Michael Dieter playing both starting center and guard for the majority of the snaps in spring camp. However, it would be extremely helpful for Dieter to be able to concentrate on one position this fall — and that’s where fellow true freshman George Panos comes in to the picture. If he can step up during fall camp it will only help the depth the Badgers have at the offensive line and it will only help Dieter become a more specialized player early in his career. Panos has the name recognition and the ability to be a future star along the offensive line, but having him prove it early in his career will be a huge help to the coaching staff feeling more confident in the depth of the line.
Player to Watch:
Dallas Lewallen, LG (senior): While everyone wants to talk about Voltz, Costigan and Havenstein let’s not forget about the fifth member of the Badgers starting lineup. Lewallen is perhaps the most versatile member of the 2014 offensive line, and is perhaps the most underrated as well. He’s started seven games over his career, replacing the injured Dan Voltz at starting center last season. Did anyone notice a drop off? I certainly didn’t and that’s a credit to the talent that Lewallen has. Now he’ll push over to left guard, a more natural position for him and his performance in camp will be something to watch. UW’s right side of the line is rock solid, but what Lewallen does in stepping up next to Marz will be hugely important to UW’s ability to run the ball anywhere on the opponent.