MADISON -- Despite the presence of an offensive line without much game experience, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen seems fairly optimistic about the group heading into next week's season-opener against UMass.
Andersen believes the hamstring injury to center Dan Voltz allowed the line to create more depth during fall camp. Now it's just about getting and staying healthy.
"I feel like we've got eight pretty good players. That's a great thing," Andersen said. "Dan getting hurt forced us to move the pieces of the puzzle around, and I felt like they reacted in a positive way, which is great to see. It's still critical, critical, critical that we stay healthy there.
"There are some good combinations and a couple young men that have shown a lot of toughness through a lot of reps throughout camp. Not as many game-tested guys as you'd like to see. However, camp-tested, spring-ball tested, offseason tested, yes, and they've passed those tests very well."
Andersen said he expects Voltz to be back full-speed by Tuesday and guard Kyle Costigan to also return next week.
Andersen hopes the Badgers end up playing six or seven offensive linemen per game, as opposed to the customary procedure of keeping the starting five in for every play.
"What's going to be nice -- and hopefully it goes this way -- is that there is somebody that can rotate or two kids that can rotate, can take a series, that can take every second or third series," said Andersen, who played center in college. "Offensive linemen need to play as a group. I was one of those guys at one time, and you're very prideful about your crew and your group, but there's no reason why that group can't be six or seven also. It doesn't just have to be five."
Defensive front to rotate often
Don't expect the starting front seven to be clear once Wisconsin releases a depth chart.
Andersen said Friday to expect a lot of "or's" among front-seven players on the team's first depth chart, meaning the competition at that particular position is still ongoing.
"That's the way it is," Andersen said. "We're not going to have just a straight starting 11, especially in the front seven. There are going to be a lot of young men that are going to be rotating and playing a lot. They deserve that opportunity, and that is a great thing for us because now we can expect them and they can expect themselves to play at a high level for four quarters."
Andersen said every senior on the roster will have an opportunity to be a game-day captain for the Badgers this season.
It's a tradition the coach said he started at Utah State two years ago.
"It doesn't matter if you've been in the program for one year or you've been in the program for five years, whether you're a walk-on or a starter, it doesn't matter," Andersen said. "Every senior will walk out -- four strong, maybe five strong -- until we get all the way through the seniors this year."
- Andersen said he expects between 4-6 true freshmen to play this season.
- Andersen said there is no timetable for the return of freshman offensive lineman Matt Miller (concussion), and he doesn't foresee it being any time in the near future.
- Andersen on the kicker competition: "It's a two-man race and remains a two-man race. I'm excited where they're at, but it's still a little confusing, for sure, to say the least."
- Andersen on Wisconsin's red alternate helmets, which the team will wear Sept. 7 against Tennessee Tech: "I think it still carries the great tradition of Wisconsin football with it, but it does put us a little bit on the cutting edge."
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