As far as offensive linemen go, the Wisconsin redshirt junior has so many uses he might as well adopt the popular pocket tool as his nickname.
After senior captain and veteran starting left tackle Ricky Wagner—a preseason Outland Trophy candidate—went down with a medial collateral ligament injury to his right knee against Purdue, Groy slid over from his position at left guard to fill in the 6-foot-6, 317-pound void to his outside.
It’s not exactly an easy transition from the interior of the line to the tackle, but Groy made the switch look easy. Groy had never played the tackle position during his previous game-time experience at Wisconsin, but had actually, in a strange coincidence, taken some reps during a practice the previous week at the position.
After replacing Wagner in the waning minutes of the second quarter, the Wisconsin offense didn’t miss a beat, amassing 467 total rushing yards, including Montee Ball’s career-best 247.
"I’m really looking back at film and looking at Rick’s stuff in seeing what he did in pass protection or run protection, just getting those techniques things down," left tackle Ryan Groy said. "It’s not about being more athletic or this or that, I think it’s just learning the plays and getting those techniques down."
The next week it was more of the same, as the Badger ground game made mincemeat out of the Minnesota Gophers, gaining over 300 yards on the ground and leading the way to two 150-yard plus efforts from Ball and James White.
With the resurgence of the Wisconsin ground game coming without it’s best offensive lineman, head coach Bret Bielema had nothing but praise for the group.
"I think that’s coaching," Bielema said. "I think it’s players that believe in what they’re asked to do. They’ve gotten better….When Ricky (Rick Wagner) went down, twe went with Ryan (Groy), but he handled it in full stride."
Groy moved around a bit when the offensive line suffered injuries in 2011, filling in at center for the injured Peter Konz, then being moved over to the guard postion as now-center Travis Frederick filled the role.
The versatility and athleticism Groy displays in his footwork and drops in his new home at tackle shouldn’t be too surprising though; he was multiple-sport athlete in his younger years playing soccer, golf and anything else he found interesting.
"I wasn’t always the fat guy," Groy joked.
That’s true. After hitting his growth spurt his freshman year at Middleton High School, Groy was 6-foot-5 and under 198-pounds. Now, the "undersized" tackle on the Wisconsin offensive line comes in on the scales at 318.
Groy will need to use every bit of his weight when it comes to facing the Spartans at Camp Randall this Saturday. With UW’s run game facing its stiffest test yet in MSU’s defense this upcoming weekend—they allow just 100.2 rushing yards per game on the ground (the 5th best total in the notion)—Groy will have to face two of arguably the best defensive ends in the conference.
"Technique is key across the board and that’s what you have to do to play against those guys," interim offensive line coach Bart Miller said. "For us it all starts with our feet, good offensive line play starts with our feet, I’ve said that from day one and it’s something we preach and work on every day. And then the secondary fundamentals and the secondary techniques come into place like your hand placements…every piece of the puzzle has to be there because they’re a great teams and great players."
William Gholston, the 6-foot-7, 278-pound defensive end for Michigan State is long, athletic and quick on the edge. Coming into the season Gholston was a preseason pick for All-American and he has produced, with one sack and five tackles for a loss already on the year.
"It’s the same kind of techniques as always," Groy said. "You want to try to get your hands inside, you don’t want to let him get his long extension on you. If he gets his extension on you, you can be in trouble if you don’t have inside hands."
The other end is Marcus Rush, who also has a sack and five tackles for a loss. Rush was a standout last year as just a redshirt freshman, starting all 14 games at defensive end and being named Freshman Defensive MVP by espn.com.
Whatever happens, the competition is sure to test both Groy and the Badger offensive line, as Saturday will serve as a measuring stick to just how far this Wisconsin unit has come under Bart Miller and offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
On a side note: this video increases my opinion that overall, Beau Allen and Chris Borland are two dudes you’d want to hang out with.
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