MADISON—On Saturday, Wisconsin offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph met with reporters after the Badgers’ sixth practice of fall camp.
For nearly 10 minutes, he answered questions ranging from the combination of offensive linemen that could start for Wisconsin beginning on Sept. 1 against Utah State to the other skill positions including wide receiver and his starting quarterback.
On redshirt junior Michael Deiter transitioning to left tackle and where he is in terms of getting comfortable: “I think he’s making some great strides. I really do. He’s smart, there are some things that’ll pop out. It’ll be something he hasn’t quite done yet—there’s this pressure against that run, that pass, but he’s really making strides. I think he could be a difference-maker and make a bigger impact at that spot so we gotta see, we gotta see how it figures out, but right now he’s doing a good job.”
If he has to get a different combination on the offensive line, how far do they go into camp and how much time do they give themselves? “As we work through, he’ll be getting reps at center, and he’ll be getting reps at left tackle. And really, I do feel like reps at left tackle, especially versus our defense with the variations, won’t really bother him if he had to do both. But i’m trying to keep him as much as he can. I know he’s got a solid base playing center but he’ll get more of those as the camp progresses.”
On wide receivers and, outside of Jazz Peavy, having players that may be inexperienced: “I’ve liked it. Inexperienced, but guys that have played. Like A.J. [Taylor] played last year, and Quintez [Cephus] has played and George [Rushing] is a senior. I’m excited about those guys, and I think it’s a little bit different approach when you have played.
“Now, ‘KP’ [redshirt freshman wide receiver Kendric Pryor] hasn’t, but man, I see him growing from what he did in the spring, so I like what that group is doing and what they’re showing. I think I like that they’re playing fast. You can tell there’s an understanding across the board, so hopefully that continues.”
On Wisconsin’s tackles and if there’s one who can play as a “swing” tackle: “I kind of see how it goes. I think right now, someone who could be a swing could be David Edwards. I think then you have good communication left and right. You got [right guard] Beau [Benzschawel] on one side, you got him there, and then you would have David on the left. Same way if you have [redshirt junior guard] Micah [Kapoi] in there. You have communication—guys that have been through it and can talk.”
On Tyler Biadasz and where he’s at with communication: “He’s owned it, and I don’t think there’s a guy in the room though that wouldn’t say he’s owned it by the way he’s approached it and what he’s done to this point. He’s got to keep fighting but he’s doing a good job.”
On the growth of Beau Benzschawel over the course of the offseason: “He’s doing a good job. He’s trying to change some things up a little bit and play a little bit more aggressive, and he’s getting there. He’s utilizing the technique. He’s playing smarter. You figure someone going into their junior year now showing that things on the field. I like the camp he’s had so far. He’s still got to make some steps, but he’s had a good camp.”
On moving Benzschawel from tackle to guard as a redshirt freshman, and if it was a better fit for him long-term: “I do think it was. It was a better fit for us at the time, and sometimes you’re in a spot and you’re trying to get it balanced and figured out, and sometimes it just starts playing mind games with you. So Jacob Maxwell did a great job on jumping in and filling that role, and we moved Beau over and he kind of found a home. You saw a different player, a different confidence, and I’ve liked that about him. But the thing I love is he’s taking steps, he’s getting better. So’s Micah, so’s Jon Dietzen. We’re going to need all of those guys.”
Any surprises in the first week, and what needs to still get done in the next two/three weeks? “I don’t know if anything’s surprised me to this point. I would say what needs to get done would be just solidifying the depth. Kind of some of the things you were alluded to, who will be the back-up center? Who’s going to win that job? How are we going to adjust if we need to? The third tackle, the third guard. We know we got three guards that have played extensively. I feel confident with those guys that we’ll find two game in and game out that’ll find fight to get it done. I think that’s the fun part of camp, so we got that ahead.”
On redshirt sophomore tight end Kyle Penniston and if he should be better this year than last year and in what ways: “I hope so, because he’s done a good job. ‘Penny’ can play. My big thing for him is he doesn’t have to surprise us anymore. I believe he can do it every play regardless of assignment. He doesn’t have to worry about a pass or a run, I think he’s a heck of a football player. His growth has to be from no more surprising us if we can just lean on him and count him to get it done every time. And he can do it, so I’m excited for him.”
On Penniston becoming a two-way tight end (both pass catcher and blocker): “He’s got to be both. I think that’s the best part of playing tight end. You got to be both. He has the potential to be there, and I believe he’ll be there by the end of camp. He’s still got to keep taking some steps.”
Happy with the scholarship numbers on the offensive line? Lacking anywhere? “I think we have a good group that we’re working with in the two-deep. Overall, you’re always trying to balance things out but I think this group of guys in the two-deep—there are three redshirt freshmen in there—but I still think it’s the most solid two-deep that we’ve had, so I feel good about that.”
On going up against the defense and how it improves the offense: “I think our D does an amazing job coaching-wise, player-wise, the experience they have, the detail they bring to their play, I think it really makes you play with an awareness. You can’t relax for one second, whether it’s seeing something before the snap, being able to adjust, make calls. They really help, I think, expand the knowledge base of your o-line, and that’s a good thing for us. So it’s always a challenge. It’s fun.”
What have you liked about what Alex Hornibrook has done over the past couple of practices? “I think for Alex, like, the install, what we’ve done is because we haven’t had a lot of padded practices we’ve really had a lot of volume in the install. And so as he is able to allow that to kind of settle in, I think it’s pretty great. I can imagine what is on him now compared to what we’ve tried to do in the past. And then I expect him just to keep playing faster and faster, but his confidence in the huddle, his understanding, his leadership, his command of things, I couldn’t be more excited about what I see there.”
Have you found your best five guys on the offensive line? “I like this five. I think what we talked about is really working hard to try to find, try to make sure we have things in place for how we back those up. Guys have a chance—like there’s a back-up center position that I’d love someone to step in and just own. I’d love to not have to move back Michael from left tackle back to center. There’s a chance like, there’s a competition at guard. I have three guards with a lot of experience that are all playing and wanting to see that competition develop. I want to see one of the young tackles fight, to push, to create that competition. Right now, these five have been the best, and that’s why it’s been represented that way, but you’ll see a little bit more rotation this week.”
About David Moorman and Cole Van Lanen’s progression: “I like it. I think there’s three—I think there’s [Patrick] Kasl, I think there’s Moorman, and I think there’s Van Lanen. Right now, I’ve really been using more Moorman as kind of the swing [tackle] and the other two keeping them in place so they can keep developing.
“I think Cole has taken a step from—I thought the spring game was his best practice of the spring. I think he’s continued to take steps from there, barring I haven't seen today’s practice, but what I saw I thought was better. Patrick, the same, he’s getting back to his form. David is competing, so I think we got to find who that third guy is and feel confident with him, and I think it hasn’t been answered quite yet.”