Injuries are always a part of spring practice, some players are coming off of surgery and others pick up nagging injuries that shut them down for precautionary reasons. There's that and then there's what is happening to the Badgers offensive line this spring, as the unit is down to just eight healthy bodies to work with.
Don't let that fool you though, the guys and most importantly new offensive line coach T.J. Woods aren't letting that get them down. Instead they are looking on the bright side of things and moving forward with the guys they have. At least that's what they are telling the media.
Of the eight healthy bodies at offensive line, two of them are walk-on's who moved from the defensive side of the ball. Sorry, that's an issue, but one not of their own making… You can put that one square on the shoulders of the last regime in place.
You've got to applaud the new staff and the players for their positive spin on a situation that is less than ideal.
Wisconsin has just 10 scholarship offensive lineman on the roster and will have three more coming to them this fall for a total of 13. According to the article and multiple published reports the ideal number of offensive lineman for Woods and Andersen would be 16 total.
All of this underscores some of the red flags a few were putting up in terms of how the last head coach and his staff used scholarships. Sure, the walk-on program at Wisconsin is huge and important, that can't and won't change. However, it can't also take over a position group and become what you rely on to get you the depth you need either.
By getting the numbers up in terms of scholarships it helps to avoid these exact situations and helps protect and bring along the walk-on's and protect the depth needed to be successful.
You need a mix and clearly that isn't the case along the offensive line. Credit Woods, Andersen, and the players themselves for taking the positive spin – especially when it means risking their bodies and their health to even a greater degree than ever before.
Take the case of guys like senior Ryan Groy and junior Dallas Lewellan. Groy has been filling in wherever needed and Lewellan has played three of the five positions – left tackle, guard, and center. Don't confuse this situation with playing these positions just to find where someone fits best, that's how low the numbers are this spring – Woods NEEDS these guys to fill in across the offensive line.
It apparently took it's toll on Lewellan who left practice on Monday with some major cramping – likely because of the crazy amount of reps he was taking out of necessity.
With the numbers as low as they are and likely only junior walk-on Riki Kodonko coming back at all this spring clearly figuring out exactly what the starting five will look like won't be accomplished anytime soon. However, don't expect the guys or the coaches to get down about it and that's a huge change from what was happening a year ago. Nothing like turning a negative into a positive, huh?