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August 28, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen isn't shy about it- the Badgers are very thin on the offensive line. The team has just nine linemen on scholarship this season, and Andersen described it as a scary situation for his offense.
"We're on thin ice," Andersen said on the Big Ten's weekly teleconference on Tuesday. "We've got to practice them the right way, make sure we get them the opportunity to get to games as fresh as they possibly can be. We need to stay healthy."
But for all of Andersen and offensive line coach T.J. Woods' efforts, the Badgers still had to deal with a few nagging injuries during fall camp. Center Dan Voltz missed most of the last week and a half of camp with a hamstring injury, and right guard Kyle Costigan is still working his way back after he had surgery on his right knee in the offseason.
Both Voltz and Costigan practiced on Tuesday, but their absence during the latter part of fall camp forced the Badgers to reshuffle their lineup. Woods moved left guard Dallas Lewallen over to center and shifted senior Ryan Groy from left tackle to his old home at left guard in place of Lewallen.
The shuffled forced the Badgers to turn to Tyler Marz at left tackle, but the 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore has acquitted himself well so far. The Badgers listed Marz as their probable starter at left tackle for the first game of the season against Massachusetts, which would be the first start of his college career.
"It'd be awesome, just to kind of get the butterflies out," Marz said after practice Tuesday. "I haven't started a game since high school, and that seems like forever ago. Scrimmages are the closest thing, but it's not Camp Randall packed with 80,000 people. Getting some time out there would be great for down the road, and coming where I came from, a small town, it would be kind of a dream come true."
Groy said Marz has played well since Woods moved him up to the second team, especially since he struggled at times during the spring when he was battling with Lewallen for the starting job.
"[Marz] is playing really well," Groy said. "He had to grow up quickly. He was a puppy there for a while and we had to bring him a long. He's got a couple things that he's got to work on, but I think he'll get them before the first game and he'll be dialed in."
The Badgers shifted Groy over to left tackle midway through spring in part because Marz and Lewallen weren't locking down the job. Marz said it was his goal to win the starting job out of the spring, but refocusing himself over the summer helped when the next opportunity came along.
"In the spring it was my goal to win that spot over- it was pretty up for grabs," Marz said. "But that didn't really happen, so coming in here I didn't want to disappoint myself. I just set a goal that I wanted to earn some valuable playing time, whether it's starting or just getting in the game. It didn't matter to me, but the way things worked out hopefully I've done a little bit better."
So while losing Voltz and Costigan temporarily put more strain on Wisconsin's already thin offensive line, giving extra reps to Marz in the end could help make that position a little deeper. The Badgers will have to figure out how to get their five best players on the field when Voltz and Costigan are back to full strength, and in the end it could mean that they revert to their line up from the start of fall camp where Groy played left tackle, Lewallen played left guard, Voltz played in the middle and Matthias and Costigan battled for the job at right guard.
But Marz said he's looking forward to getting quality reps so he can make the most out of an opportunity that not many people expected him to have this fall.
"It feels good," Marz said. "It shows that the hard work from all camp pays off. I wanted to make a push for that spot, and obviously there were a couple injuries. That's not good for the team, but it gave me a chance."
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