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Post spring practice thoughts: offensive line

A veteran unit should lead the offense in 2021.

Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

The Wisconsin Badgers football team ended their spring practice period on Friday. After missing out on spring practice last year, having an extra 15 sessions proved to be extremely useful for Paul Chryst’s group. The Badgers didn’t have a spring game, or anything like that, but we were still able to glean a decent amount of information from the open practices and media availability.

Wisconsin’s most prominently known position group has been sufficiently functional over the past couple of seasons, but you’d be remiss if you thought that the unit was putting players into the NFL at the rate that Badger fans have become accustomed to.

After a few recruiting cycles of increased success (at least in the star ratings), Wisconsin fans should look to resume that level of professional talent coming from Madison in the next few years. However, for the time being, the projected starting lineup will likely feature four seniors, who lack the athletic upside of a lot of the newcomers. From what we’ve seen of Wisconsin, we can expect that these guys will be given every opportunity to play before being usurped by the younger players.

With the offensive line as a group, there is always potential for movement, as it’s the largest individual unit on the field (five guys), and one injury doesn’t always necessitate the second stringer at that position seeing the field. However, based on what we’ve heard from this spring, the starting lineup and the two deep should look something like this:

Depth Chart

Position Starter Backup
Position Starter Backup
LT Tyler Beach RS SR Logan Brown RS SO
LG Josh Seltzner RS SR Joe Tippmann RS SO
C Kayden Lyles RS SR Tanor Bortolini RS FR
RG Jack Nelson RS FR Michael Furtney RS JR
RT Logan Bruss RS SR Trey Wedig RS FR

Spring standouts

Jack Nelson is the easy answer here, as the former 4-star recruit from Stoughton is the first of this new wave of recruiting success to find his way onto the field as a starter in the cardinal and white.

Nelson has immense athletic potential and could be a candidate to move back out to tackle at some point in his college career, though with Riley Mahlman, Nolan Rucci, and the less athletic and positionally-limited Trey Wedig already in the fold, I assume we’ll see Nelson on the interior for the long term.

Remaining questions

As I mentioned earlier, typically the Badgers have shown that they’ll give their older players a chance to earn their playing time, given the talent levels are close.

However, the fanfare that came to Madison along with 5-star recruit Logan Brown has yet to come to fruition as, other than the bowl game this past season, he’s yet to find the field for substantial amounts of time. While he’s still the backup at left tackle at the moment to Tyler Beach, who played right tackle last season, it wouldn’t surprise me if a rotation was implemented if Brown plays to his potential in camp this fall. While it’s a bit frustrating, it does speak to the depth at the position, where it’s not a foregone conclusion that a top recruit will automatically play immediately.

Nelson, Lyles and Bruss in spring practice.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

Finally, the main question could turn out to be - how much rotating will OL coach Joe Rudolph utilize this year in an attempt to help integrate some of these younger players into the lineup this season? Because, after 2021, four fifth-year seniors are currently slated to graduate and leave after the season.