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Wisconsin 2017 spring football preview: Badgers’ o-line returns four starters but must replace Ryan Ramczyk

Perhaps the unit Wisconsin is best known for, what will the Badgers look like up front in the spring?

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Well, can you smell it in the air? The snow is starting to melt (thank God) and the grass is starting to come out. People are thinking about going outside to grill. The Brewers are in Spring Training, the Badgers basketball team is careening toward the Big Ten tournament and it’s almost spring.

Spring football, that is.

With a new year comes a new starting lineup, at least at one spot. Ryan Ramczyk, an All-American in his only season as a Division I player, has gone onto the NFL and will need to be replaced. One positive for Wisconsin heading into spring ball is that it will be returning four starters from a year ago for the second straight season.

Jon Dietzen or Micah Kapoi, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel and Jacob Maxwell or David Edwards will likely comprise four of the starting five, if not all five this spring.

Wiscosnin’s 2017 Offensive Linemen

Lineman 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
Lineman 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
David Edwards R-SO 6'7 285 Downers Grove, Ill.
Jon Dietzen R-SO 6'6 333 Black Creek, Wis.
Michael Deiter R-JR 6'6 325 Curtice, Ohio
Beau Benzschawel R-JR 6'6 321 Grafton, Wis.
Jacob Maxwell R-JR 6'6 313 Greendale, Wis.
Cole Van Lanen R-FR 6'5 287 Green Bay, Wis.
Micah Kapoi R-JR 6'3 334 Kapolei, Hawaii
Brett Connors R-JR 6'6 304 New Berlin, Wis.
Ian Dretzka R-SO 6'6 322 Delafield, Wis.
David Moorman R-SO 6'5 305 Northville, Mich.
Patrick Kasl R-FR 6'5 291 Wyoming, Minn.
Tyler Biadasz R-FR 6'3 291 Amherst, Wis.
Jason Erdmann R-SO 6'6 324 Richfield, Wis.
Kevin Estes R-SO 6'5 263 San Marcos, Calif.

2016 Starters

Ryan Ramczyk, Jon Dietzen, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, Jacob Maxwell

Other Contributors

Micah Kapoi (left guard), Brett Connors (center), David Edwards (right tackle)

Key Departures

Ryan Ramczyk (NFL draft)

Key Additions

Kayden Lyles (freshman, midyear enrollee)

Logan Bruss (freshman)

Alex Fenton (freshman)

Tyler Beach (freshman)

Position Overview

The Wisconsin offensive line is in a bit of an odd position. For the second consecutive season, the Badgers will be returning four starters. In 2015, Tyler Marz graduated, and in 2016, Ramczyk left for the NFL draft while Dan Voltz stepped away from the game during training camp due to injury.

Left tackle is up for grabs, and with two tackles who got significant playing time last season returning and two highly regarded prep tackles who redshirted—along with another returner—a prediction is a crapshoot. Edwards, Cole Van Lanen or David Moorman are the most likely candidates, however. Edwards started the last six games of the regular season with Jacob Maxwell on the shelf, and could start at left tackle. Van Lanen was the highest-ranked recruit in the 2016 class for Wisconsin and a redshirt season could be just what the Green Bay native needed to take over the job. Moorman is a redshirt sophomore who has bided his time and waited for his opportunity. He could also be the starter at left tackle come fall.

Whew, that was a lot, huh? Honestly, that’s about all of the speculation there is to make on this offensive line. Dietzen started when healthy last season, and while he’ll never be mistaken for a finesse pass blocker, he’s the road grader Wisconsin needs. He’ll likely start at left guard.

Deiter started all 14 games a year ago and will be the starting center. He’s very #good and should be an All-Big Ten candidate with Michigan’s Mason Cole.

Benzschawel started every game at right guard last season, and right guards that wear No. 66 are alright with me [Ed. note: Owen played guard for D-III Carroll University and wore said No. 66]. He should start there next season barring an injury or some other unforeseen event.

Right tackle is about the only other position in question. It’s either Maxwell or Edwards, and both have shown to be dependable options—though Edwards is still green as grass at tackle.

What it boils down to is that there are too many good players and not enough spots. A good problem to have at Offensive Line University. This year’s group will not have a senior on it for the second consecutive season, and that’s pretty neat too. Continuity is basically the most important thing for offensive linemen, so that’s something that will likely be noticed in spring practices.