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Spring Football 2021: offensive line preview

Can the big uglies get back to the level they’re used to being at?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

If it seems like there have been more sports than ever this March it is because, well, there have been! What’s one more to add to the pile? The Wisconsin Badgers football team starts their spring practice on Tuesday, March 30 and we are going to start previewing each position group. UW will have 15 practices after having zero last year due to COVID-19.

Instead of the traditional position previews we’ve done in the past, these ones are going to be a little more focused on just a couple of players. We will feature one or two players who we think a full spring practice will really help and focus on one position battle that we think will be important.

Next up, the offensive line!

Players who will benefit from a full spring practice schedule

Logan Brown.

The Badgers second highest rated recruit in program history saw no game action as a true freshman, and saw reserve duty in 2020 until the bowl game, when an injury to Cole Van Lanen propelled the Michigan native into the game at left tackle, where he looked more than competent. The Badgers haven’t had a legitimate star at left tackle since Ryan Ramczyk in 2016, and he was a first round pick and might be the best right tackle in the NFL today.

Joe Tippmann and Jack Nelson are two other names that stand out for this spring. Tippmann was a 4-star offensive tackle from Indiana who has been moved inside and practiced at guard and even center since arriving in Madison. The physical talent is not an issue for Tippmann, so spring practice is a perfect opportunity to continue to develop and gain experience at new positions for him. Nelson, a former 5-star offensive tackle from Stoughton, found his way into the two-deep at times last year, and has as much physical ability as anyone in the Badgers’ offensive line room this spring. At 6-foot-7 and around 300 pounds, it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up, but he’ll likely force his way onto the field.

Key position battle

Center will be an interesting battle to see unfold. Kayden Lyles returns for his fifth year in Madison, and will likely be the favorite to get the job. However, utility lineman Cormac Sampson and true freshman Tanor Bortolini filled in admirably last season, and are both better athletes than Lyles is. As I mentioned earlier, Joe Tippmann has also seen reps at center in practice.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Even if Lyles (pictured above) holds onto the job heading into the fall, it’ll be important for the coaching staff to identify their secondary option, and these extra practices can help vet these players out.