Constant shifting of offensive line not a worry for Wisconsin

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Injuries have forced Wisconsin to shake up its offensive line throughout fall camp, but the Badgers aren't too worried entering Saturday's season opener without a definitive starting five up front.

MADISON - Wisconsin offensive linemen hear consistency preached more than anything from their position coach. Without question, physical attributes are important, but first-year offensive line coach T.J. Woods reminds his group that their play isn't judged like the rest of the field.

A wide receiver can make a few big plays in a game and be called a great player, Woods tells them. Work in trenches isn't so simple.

"You can't just go out and have one big game," right guard Zac Matthias said. "You need to be good every single snap, every single play, every single game to be considered a good O-lineman. You can't be up and down on the line."

"I think we're used to shifting around. Since I've been here, everybody's always used to playing different positions. You can't get comfortable in one spot. It's always been what we've done." -Ryan Groy

Woods and the rest of the Badgers' coaching staff hope they have at least five linemen that can bring a high level of play every Saturday, if not more. With only nine scholarship players and a fall camp full of injuries and position-shifting, though, there would seem to be room for concern just four days before the season-opener.

A veteran of the group, senior left guard Ryan Groy, doesn't see a reason to worry. He said it's no different than previous seasons.

"I think we're used to shifting around," Groy said. "Since I've been here, everybody's always used to playing different positions. You can't get comfortable in one spot. It's always been what we've done."

Freshman center Dan Voltz returned from a hamstring injury Tuesday, and right guard Kyle Costigan also missed time during fall camp. It forced Dallas Lewallen to move over to center and Tyler Marz to assume the starting position at left tackle.

When Wisconsin released its first depth chart earlier this week, two of the five spots on the line had an "OR" status, with Voltz sharing the center position with Lewallen and Costigan listed as a co-starter at right guard with Matthias.

That perhaps gives some validation to Gary Andersen's comments last week when the head coach said he would like six or seven guys to rotate on the offensive line. While that's not necessarily a common strategy, the Badgers have done it in the recent past. It could also, along with the constant shifting of positions during fall camp, give the team some insurance if injuries continue to hit the position after the season begins.

"The continuity's not quite what we were looking for, but the adversity that we face in that position is going to pay off big benefits in the long run," offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. "We got exposure to different players playing different positions, and you get a chance to put different pieces together. In the long run, you may have a player go out at tackle during the course of the season that's not necessarily a tackle but he played some in fall camp -- a center that hasn't played center, but he did in fall camp. So in the long run, it's going to pay off huge."

The Badgers' offensive linemen appear to be on board with the ever-changing look of the front five. Lewallen, Matthias and Groy all said it hasn't slowed the group down throughout August.

"I feel confident with the seven, eight guys that we've got moving around," Lewallen said. "It's a great group of guys. It's great to have guys that can play in different spots.

"Throughout practice and camp, it's something we've been doing and having success with, so we'll go with it."

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