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What Jon Dietzen’s departure means for Wisconsin’s offensive line

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A tough loss will yield opportunities for others to step up.

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NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA T

On Monday, Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Jon Dietzen announced he would leave football due to injuries.

The Black Creek, Wis., native, who said the decision was tough to make, played in 35 games with 32 starts for UW.

Dietzen showcased a versatility that became standard for many Wisconsin offensive linemen. He started 20 games at left guard and 12 at left tackle, spending time at the latter during a 2018 season where he was asked to bump outside to allow Michael Deiter to return to a more natural position.

Dietzen fought through injuries to continue to play, showcasing a toughness and a dedication to the program that remain respected.

His departure further diminishes the depth of the offensive line, as he joins Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, and David Edwards in leaving UW’s 2018 unit.

Looking ahead, here are some takeaways about what’s next for Wisconsin’s offensive line.

Only one starter (technically) will return to Wisconsin’s offensive line

Rising redshirt junior Tyler Biadasz decided to return to Wisconsin and will lock down the center position for a third straight season.

Although technically Dietzen was the main starter at left tackle, Cole Van Lanen really played a lot for Wisconsin at that position in 2018. So it feels like two Badgers with significant game experience are returning.

You could also argue Logan Bruss saw a lot of time at right tackle at the end of last season with Edwards out the last three games, along with playing as an extra lineman in the “jumbo” package. Though the consistent starters will be different, many names will be recognizable.

The depth chart will look mighty different next year

For the rest of the positions, watching the competition will be interesting.

If Dietzen returned and was healthy enough to play, I thought he would likely swing back inside to left guard, opening up Van Lanen to potentially take the reins for good at left tackle for his redshirt junior season in 2019.

Pro Football Focus certainly liked Van Lanen’s performance from last year.

On the flip side, Bruss manned right tackle for the three games Edwards missed due to his left arm injury. He likely is the favorite due to his game experience.

Two others currently on the roster could battle Bruss and Van Lanen for reps heading into the season. When Van Lanen was injured during the Northwestern game, Bruss filled in and was presumed to spell Dietzen at left tackle the week after against Rutgers. When talking to reporters days before the matchup with the Scarlet Knights, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph mentioned that along with Bruss there would be competition at the position with Tyler Beach and David Moorman. That could be an indication of who could become candidates to fill out the two-deep next season.

Like Bruss, Beach will be a redshirt sophomore, while Moorman will enter his redshirt senior campaign.

Then there’s five-star offensive tackle Logan Brown, who is not a mid-year enrollee but already has the body type of a prototypical Wisconsin lineman. How he progresses during summer conditioning with his strength and picking up the offense in fall camp will be intriguing.

That leads us to left and right guard ...

Watch the guard positions in the spring

Now that Dietzen is retiring due to his injuries, that left guard spot will be even more open. In the game notes for the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl, Wisconsin listed Moorman as the No. 2 left guard behind Deiter.

Moorman played in 13 games last season and has seen action in 41 games. According to Rudolph, his versatility is very appealing.

Rising redshirt sophomore Kayden Lyles will be another candidate for the guard spots as he returns to the position group to which he was recruited as a four-star prospect. Playing defensive end for 12 games (seven starts) allowed him to get on the field as a second-year player last season, but head coach Paul Chryst acknowledged in December he was heading back to the offensive line.

Lyles possesses natural talent and a skill set that makes him an extremely favorable candidate to find time at one of the guard positions. After a year holding the line as a first-team defensive end, however, he will have to adjust back to the footwork, fundamentals, and technique that Rudolph demands of his players on the line.

Another redshirt senior in 2019, former walk-on Jason Erdmann can play center and guard. Wisconsin also utilized him along with Bruss as pseudo-tight ends in the offense’s “jumbo” package. Though the game notes stated he was the No. 2 center behind Biadasz, he can play on the interior and will likely vie for a starting role somewhere in his final season as a Badger.

Remember, too, that underrated utility lineman Micah Kapoi exhausted his eligibility after the 2018 season as well. Kapoi could play both guard and center, so others will have to step up behind those previously mentioned.

Another former walk-on, Josh Seltzner, saw some meaningful reps during fall camp at right guard with injuries holding some players out.

There are tons of possibilities with this line next year. Spring and fall camps will definitely be utilized to fit all the pieces together before UW faces USF on Aug. 30.