2016 really was kinda wild, huh?
Entering the season, it was expected that the Wisconsin Badgers would only be losing one offensive lineman, Dan Voltz, from this year’s squad. Halfway through fall camp, the former All-Big Ten lineman decided to hang up the cleats, stating that he couldn’t play with the abandon he once could due to injuries.
Ryan Ramczyk was a DIII transfer who, while Joe Schobert sung his praises an offseason ago, couldn’t have been expected to deliver an All-American season when two years ago he was blocking WIAC opponents. Now he’s gone, too (which was the right move).
So where does Wisconsin’s offensive line turn to from here? We’ve got you covered.
Returning Tackles: RS SO Jake Maxwell, RS FR David Edwards, RS FR David Moorman, RS FR Kevin Estes, (Current RS) Cole Van Lanen, (Current RS) Patrick Kasl
Maxwell started the first half of the season or so at right tackle, but a shoulder injury put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. He’s a right tackle only, but was a good run blocker when healthy.
Edwards was a tight end, and they told him to eat everything he could find and, voilà, he’s a tackle now. The athleticism is there to potentially protect the blindside, but he’s greener than grass at the position as it stands right now.
Moorman is from the last group of Andersen recruits. He’s a good athlete also, and could play either tackle spot, or guard in a pinch.
Estes is intriguing, as he has yet to see the field and seemingly can’t put weight on. Listed at 263 pounds, he was a very athletic lineman coming out of California, but last year in the spring game he lined up at right tackle next to David Edwards (yeah, that guy) at tight end, and he was two inches shorter and three pounds LIGHTER than the tight end next to him. He was left off the preseason 105-man roster, so his future isn’t easy to speculate. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph raved during bowl practices about Van Lanen and Kasl’s potential, and it benefited the two to redshirt them.
Newcomers: Tyler Beach (Port Washington, Wis.),
Beach was a highly-recruited prospect, as the Badgers had to beat out Michigan and Notre Dame to get the Port Washington tackle. He’s a good athlete and listed at 6’6, 275 pounds on 247Sports.com. He’s likely to end up around 310-320 if the Badgers plan on keeping him at tackle. Beach, only a three-star on 247Sports, has a very high ceiling and was talked about quite a bit during the summer circuit last year after committing to UW in early April.
Returning (Guards, Centers): RS FR Jon Dietzen, RS SO Michael Deiter, RS SO Beau Benzschawel, RS SO Micah Kapoi, RS SO Brett Connors, (Current RS) Tyler Biadasz, RS FR Ian Dretzka, RS FR Jason Erdmann
Dietzen and Kapoi split time this season at left guard but Dietzen seemed to gain the upper hand in the competition, starting most games when he was healthy. Deiter played some guard and center due to injuries to others, but it’s pretty obvious he’s more effective at center. He’ll be the best Badger lineman heading into 2017.
Benzschawel started every game at right guard in 2016 and earned some All-Big Ten honors. Connors was Mr. Utility on the second unit (#BrettConnorsBacksUpTheWorld) and played significant snaps against Michigan State and Michigan, struggling mightily in the latter—not unexpected of a walk-on backup against one of the best front-seven’s in college football.
Biadasz traveled with the team on every road game, but luckily for the coaches, was never needed and was able to maintain his redshirt status. Dretzka and Erdmann are both former walk-ons who have been used thus far on the point-after team (not a knock—it’s the least desirable job in sports, and I’ll fight anyone who suggests otherwise).
Newcomers: Kayden Lyles (Middleton, Wis.), Logan Bruss (Kimberly, Wis.), Alex Fenton (Menomonie, Wis.)
Paul Chryst has Made Wisconsin Great Again by putting up #TheFence around the state. Wisconsin currently has six of the top seven in-state recruits committed, four of which are offensive linemen. Lyles is the top recruit in this class for Wisconsin, and could be in a similar situation to Deiter as a freshman. He was seen as good enough to start on a lot of o-lines in the conference, but due to the depth and talent at Wisconsin, he might redshirt, especially on the interior. Lyles played guard while at Saguaro High School in Arizona (the in-state equivalent to Arrowhead and Kimberly combining in Wisconsin), but played center at Middleton.
Bruss is a very explosive player and will likely redshirt. He’s listed at 6’4, 260 pounds on 247Sports. He chose Wisconsin over offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Illinois, and committed early on Feb. 22. He’ll likely stay at guard, and watch out for him on pull plays.
Fenton also committed to UW on Feb. 22, and was listed in high school as a tight end and defensive lineman. Now, a 286-pound tight end in high school isn’t normal, but in Menomonie’s offense, they basically just used him to cave in a side of the line and bring a kick-out guy behind him (a.k.a. a modified power play). He’ll play guard at Wisconsin, but could potentially be used as an extra lineman due to this experience. He could also play tackle, depending on how he develops.