Like the loss of Jordan Kohout last week, Casey Dehn's departure due to academic reasons doesn't leave Wisconsin desperate for a stop-gap, but it does leave them on the teetering edge of having real depth issues. Dehn filled in for Rob Havenstein at right tackle during spring practices, and was expected to compete for a starting spot at right guard during the regular season. At the very least Dehn would have been a nice option to spell starters, and may have been the Next Man In at three different spots along the line.
Wisconsin isn't short on insurance policies, but none of them aren't without question marks. Kyle Costigan is a converted defensive lineman. Ray Ball is just a redshirt freshman. Dan Voltz is a true freshman and already being groomed for center, and Dallas Lewallen (dislocated knee cap) and Zac Matthias (back surgery) are both coming off extended injury stints.
Despite the questionable depth past the starting five, Wisconsin still figures to have the best offensive line in the conference, even if only by default. Michigan returns a tremendous left tackle in Taylor Lewan, but they have to replace David Molk and may have to start undersized walk-on Joey Burzynski at guard. Michigan State returns six players with starting experience, but last year's line was cobbled together from spare parts and was just OK last season. Le'Veon Bell was the only running back to manage over 4.0 yards per carry, and as a team the Spartans ranked 83rd in Football Outsiders' rushing S&P+ metric.
Ohio State features lofty recruiting pedigrees up front, but the unit severely underperformed last season and has to learn a new system this season. Nebraska is no-doubt talented too, but they are replacing three starters. At this point there doesn't appear to be a single unit primed (yet) to bowl over the conference.
Is Wisconsin the best of the bunch? Possibly edging towards probably. There is still a lot left to prove, however.
Links after the jump:
Brian Bennett ranks the conference's top individual lineman. Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick take two of the Top three spots, but Taylor Lewan takes top honors.
Bo Ryan's showing up at summer workouts, and spiking up the intensity during scrimmages.
Long profiles on Bret Bielema's tender heart are indeed cringe-inducing, but they must be linked for posterity.
Bill O'Brien's flying solo at Big Ten Media Days beginning today. Biels will be speaking at 9:00 a.m. CT.
Pre-Snap Read's colossal journey to preview every team in college football reaches Iowa.
Penn State faced four years without football had it not agreed with the NCAA sanctions.
Via BT Powerhouse, a sabermetrics look at Minnesota basketball.