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Wisconsin spring football preview: Offensive linemen have opportunity with starters resting

Four of the Badgers' five offensive line positions return starters, but with head coach Gary Andersen limiting Dallas Lewallen and Dan Voltz in the spring, young linemen like true freshman Michael Deiter could gain some early experience.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Wisconsin offensive line on paper, this position is one of most experienced groups heading into spring practices. Five of the six offensive linemen who started in 2013 return with a combined 74 starts. Back to the grind are tackles Tyler Marz and Rob Havenstein, the latter leading the group with 28 starts, as well as right guard Kyle Costigan, who himself has started 21 games in the past two seasons.

The only loss from last year's starters is guard Ryan Groy. With many predicting Groy to go in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, he could be another in the long line of Wisconsin offensive linemen to have a sustained career at the next level.

However, head coach Gary Andersen acknowledged during his National Signing Day press conference that guard/center Dallas Lewallen and center Dan Voltz will be very limited in the spring at most due to lingering injures.

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"They could possibly be involved in spring ball, but they will not be just to be on the safe side of things," Andersen said.

"We have a lot of young men that need as many reps as they can possibly get. They'll be full go in all summer conditioning and expect no issues with them walking into fall camp at 100 percent."

Wisconsin's young offensive linemen have the chance to earn some much needed experience. Though the starters might seem set in stone for the season,'s John Veldhuis believes this spring might deliver more relief for the more experienced Havenstein and Costigan:

LT Tyler Marz RS JR 6-5 321 22 12 Springfield, Minn.
LT Hayden Biegel RS FR 6-6 281 0 0 Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
RT Rob Havenstein RS SR 6-8 327 40 28 Mount Airy, Md.
RT Walker Williams RS SO 6-8 327 1 0 Tacoma, Wash.
RT Jaden Gault FR 6-6 310 0 0 Cottage Grove, Wis.
LG Dallas Lewallen RS SR 6-6 322 13 7 Berlin, Wis.
LG Ray Ball RS JR 6-7 321 17 0 Columbus, Ohio
LG Aidan McNamara RS FR 6-4 290 0 0 Madison, Wis.
RG Kyle Costigan RS SR 6-5 315 28 21 Muskego, Wis.
RG Trent Denlinger RS SO 6-6 297 2 0 Cuba City, Wis.
RG Ben Hemer RS FR 6-4 274 0 0 Medford, Wis.
C Dan Voltz RS SO 6-3 313 11 6 Barrington, Ill.
C Michael Deiter FR 6-5 310 0 0 Curtice, Ohio

Main question: Who will solidify spots on the two-deep behind the probable starters?

Andersen also mentioned on National Signing Day that the injuries to Voltz and Lewallen could open the door for early-enrollee center Michael Deiter to get an opportunity to start at center in the spring. That's high praise for the former three-star recruit from Genoa, Ohio. Former Monona Grove standout Jaden Gault also enrolled early, and the spring practices should give both players a leg up on other incoming freshman like in-state products George Panos and Jacob Maxwell.

"Michael may be the starting center with the injuries at this point to Dan [Voltz] and to Dallas [Lewallen]," Andersen said. "So that is a tremendous opportunity for a young freshman at the center spot. Very challenging, but a great opportunity."

Guard Ray Ball has played in 17 games in his career thus far and was listed on the two-deep behind Groy at left guard in 2013. He saw some time in the backfield last season in at least one game as part of a jumbo package with departing senior Zac Matthias. The junior was praised by Andersen last spring and could push for the majority of the reps at left guard with his experience if Lewallen does not participate.

Last season's two-deep also included tackles Hayden Biegel and Walker Williams at left and right tackle, respectively. Biegel is listed at 281 pounds on the official roster, but it will be interesting to see if the redshirt freshman has increased his weight and strength heading into his second year in the program. Will the two have to fight the ESPN 300 recruit in Gault, who is currently listed 29 pounds heavier than Biegel, for reps starting Wednesday?

With Matt Miller and Jackson Keeler done with football due to injuries, and also Jacob Ninnemann off the spring roster, there are 13 linemen in camp. Though the starters seem in place, there should be battles that will continue into preseason camp to see who's next in line.