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September 3, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers were in a tough spot just two weeks ago. Head coach Gary Andersen expressed his concerns about a thin offensive line just a few days in to spring camp, and the line got a little thinner at the end of fall camp.
Center Dan Voltz (hamstring) and right guard Kyle Costigan (knee) both missed time at the end of camp with nagging injuries, which forced offensive line coach T.J. Woods to reshuffle his first team. Ryan Groy and Dallas Lewallen shifted to left guard and center, while Tyler Marz and Zac Matthias stepped in to larger roles at left tackle and right guard.
In the end, the Badgers started Marz, Groy, Lewallen, Matthias and Rob Havenstein against UMass. But Voltz and Costigan both got on to the field against the Minutemen with the first team offense as well, and both players have practiced with the team this week.
It puts the Badgers in an interesting situation as they prepare for their second game of the season. Marz and Lewallen both played well against the Minutemen (although the Badgers did have two botched snaps during the game), which gives Woods a little more depth to work with than he might have thought at the start of fall camp.
"I think that we've got seven guys that can play, and I don't think there's any drop-off," Woods said after practice Tuesday. "I think the twos came in, grounded out and did some good things."
Marz in particular has impressed Woods and other teammates like Groy, who played left tackle during the spring and in the early part of fall camp before the injury bug bit the offensive line.
"I think for right now they're going to try and leave Tyler there," Groy said Monday. "I don't know how Dan is feeling- I'm pretty sure he's about 100 percent, but I think we'll see the comparison in Dan and Dallas, see how they performed on Saturday. I think that will have a huge say in what the final line is going to be."
Woods said Marz is "one of the best" options he has a left tackle, but also said that he's more concerned with having the best group of five players on the field than at one individual position.
"I'm not concerned about the best left tackle, I'm concerned about [having] the best offensive line," Woods said. "I think right now [Marz] at left tackle is proving that that's a possibility. I mean, [having] no sacks at left tackle- that's your job. That's a huge positive that I hope [Marz] can build on."
But with Voltz and Costigan getting close to operating at "near-optimum" levels, if not at 100 percent, Woods emphasized that his position group really won't have a "starting five," since they'll likely rotate players in and out of every game. Wood said that while Matthias started the game, Costigan took more reps against UMass. And with an already thin offensive line and a few players working their way back on to the field, dividing the reps up might even be a good thing.
"It's going to be the best seven," Woods said. "I think they've all accepted that. To me, if they're both playing well then it helps. A guy's going to be a lot better for 35 snaps than he will for 70."
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