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Wisconsin football 2020 fall practice position preview: offensive line

The Badgers’ most well known position will see a bit of a facelift in 2020.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Look, we don’t know if there is going to be college football this fall but until we know for sure that there isn’t, we are going to treat this offseason like any other and get you prepared for the 2020 season. Here are our thoughts on each position group before spring practice started and then, uh, got canceled to get you fully up to speed.

Since, to be quite honest, not a whole lot has changed since we wrote the spring previews we’ll be adding a couple of different elements to these previews. We’ll take our best guesses at how the depth chart for each position group will look this fall and we’ll also take a look at a potential breakout player for the 2021 season (in case you haven’t had your Graham Mertz fix in a few months).

Returning Players

Cole Van Lanen, offensive tackle, 6-foot-5, 307 pounds, redshirt senior
Kayden Lyles, offensive guard, 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, redshirt junior
Joe Tippmann, center, 6-foot-6, 304 pounds, redshirt freshman
Logan Bruss, offensive guard/tackle, 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, redshirt junior
Tyler Beach, offensive tackle, 6-foot-6, 309 pounds, redshirt junior
Josh Seltzner, offensive guard, 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, redshirt junior
Michael Furtney, offensive guard, 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Aaron Vopal, offensive tackle, 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, redshirt junior
Logan Brown, offensive tackle, 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, redshirt freshman
Cormac Sampson, offensive tackle, 6-foot-4, 287 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Blake Smithback, center, 6-foot-2, 305 pounds, redshirt junior
Andrew Lyons, offensive tackle, 6-foot-5, 317 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Logan O’Brien, offensive tackle, 6-foot-4, 283 pounds, redshirt sophomore

Departing Players

Tyler Biadasz, center, declared early (Dallas Cowboys)
David Moorman, offensive guard, graduation
Jason Erdmann, offensive guard, graduation

Incoming Players

Trey Wedig, tackle, 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, Kettle Moraine HS (WI)
Jack Nelson, tackle, 6-foot-7, 283 pounds, Stoughton HS (WI)
Ben Barten, guard, 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Stratford HS (WI)
Dylan Barrett, guard/center, 6-foot-5, 303 pounds, St. Charles East HS (IL)
Tanor Bortolini, guard/center, 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Kewaunee HS (WI)
Sean Timmis, guard/center, 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Marquette University HS (WI) (walk on)
Kerry Kodanko, guard/center, 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, West De Pere HS (WI) (walk on)

Depth Chart/Breakdown

2020 Offensive Line Depth Chart

Role Player Position Year Games started
Role Player Position Year Games started
Starter Cole Van Lanen LT RS SR 14
Starter Josh Seltzner LG RS JR 4
Starter Kayden Lyles C RS JR 4
Starter Logan Bruss RG RS JR 20
Starter Tyler Beach RT RS JR 2
Role Player Position Year Games Started
Backup Logan Brown LT RS FR 0
Backup Michael Furtney LG RS SO 0
Backup Joe Tippmann C RS FR 0
Backup Jack Nelson RG FR 0
Backup Cormac Sampson RT RS SO 2 (TE)

The Badgers offensive line returns a few of their heavy hitters from a year ago, and could be a better overall group despite losing their three year starting center, Tyler Biadasz, to the Dallas Cowboys.

Cole Van Lanen, effectively the starting left tackle for the past two seasons, will return to anchor the line and be the elder statesman of the group. I suspect he’ll be the only guy who remains at the position he started in 2019 at. Per reports from The Athletic’s Jesse Temple, offensive line coach Joe Rudolph has talked about moving Logan Bruss, who has 19 career starts at right tackle inside to right guard, in order to get Tyler Beach on the field. Beach, a Port Washington product, has NFL size and is an athletic kid. Clearly this is a move by Rudolph to attempt to get Wisconsin’s most talented five linemen in the starting lineup. That leaves a trio of interior players, redshirt juniors Kayden Lyles and Josh Seltzner, and redshirt freshman Joe Tippmann, for the left guard and center spots.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There is A PLETHORA of depth behind the starters, though. In a similar situation as a few years ago, Wisconsin will have multiple multi-year starters in the lineup (Van Lanen, Lyles, Seltzner, Bruss). Now, that’s a good thing. However, if you’re a highly touted recruit (Brown, Nelson, Wedig, Tippmann, 2021 Mahlman, 2021 Benzschawel, 2021 Nolan Rucci? please God), it can make it tough to find your way onto the field in any type of expeditious fashion.

For others, there are a few players who might not be far off of playing time. Redshirt junior Aaron Vopal, a former defensive lineman, Cormac Sampson, who has bounced between tackle and tight end, and Michael Furtney could all factor into the two deep in some fashion if any injuries or attrition were to come up.

Wisconsin brought in seven freshman offensive linemen in this class, which is obnoxious, but is set up to replace the attrition of after 2021 when UW is slated to lose six offensive linemen. Trey Wedig and Jack Nelson are the headliners, as the two in-state behemoths should factor into the UW long term plans at tackle or guard. Ben Barten has the length to also play tackle or even defensive line. Dylan Barrett, Tanor Bortolini, Sean Timmis and Kerry Kodanko should all end up on the interior in some form or fashion.

Most important player in position group: I’m going to cheat and use two. Kayden Lyles or Joe Tippmann, whoever wins the center job, will have some big shoes to fill, and while they’ll be surrounded by experience, the center position for the Badgers has a big responsibility as far as identifying a Mike (middle linebacker) and setting pass protections. If Tippmann were to win the job, he could be a three to four year starter, as he came in with a good amount of pomp and circumstance from Indiana.

Potential Breakout Player in 2021: Logan Brown. Easy. Brown is a future NFL offensive lineman and the quicker he can get on the field, the quicker he can continue to develop and gain experience. Brown has all the makings of a future first round pick, but he’ll have to wait for Cole Van Lanen to go to the NFL first.