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January 10, 2014
Report Card: Offensive Line
Wisconsin's 2013 football season is in the books, so it's time to pass out our position grades after the Badgers finished the year 9-4 with a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.
After giving Wisconsin's tight ends solid marks on Thursday it's time to wrap up the offense by reviewing T.J. Woods' offensive line. As usual our grades are included below, along with links to the other position groups if you missed one earlier in the week.
John Veldhuis: I'll admit I was curious to see how the offensive line would perform in Woods' first year with the team. Many fans wanted Gary Andersen to retain Bart Miller after the first-year assistant coach revived a struggling unit last year, but Andersen brought Woods with him from Utah State and the results were very good.
Woods had to work with a thin unit throughout the season, but the Badgers stayed relatively healthy on the line and did their jobs well. The Badgers finished second in the Big Ten with just 16 sacks allowed all season, and paved the way for a running game that averaged 6.62 yards per carry.
That's pretty good for a thin unit that had to replace two NFL draft picks, and with four of this year's five starters slated to return in 2014 it doesn't look like the Badgers will see a drop-off in Woods' second season with the team. They'll have to replace Ryan Groy at left guard, but my guess is they'll plug Dallas Lewallen right into that spot and see where that takes them.
Jon McNamara: Considering the depth issues the line had this spring and fall, first-year position coach T.J. Woods had a great season at Wisconsin. The Badgers had two running backs average over 100 yards on the ground per game and quarterback Joel Stave was only sacked 16 times all season. Ryan Groy played well in his final season while youngsters Tyler Marz and Dan Voltz proved to be capable players with bright futures. Rob Havenstein and Kyle Costigan will be back to anchor the right side for UW in 2014 with Dallas Lewallen and Ray Ball also fighting for playing time. It will be interesting to see how depth shakes out with at least six incoming freshmen in UW's 2014 recruiting class.
Jon Gorman: With Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick leaving, this unit is one that had many worried coming into the season. Wisconsin bases much of what it does offensively on quality offensive line play, and once again they were treated to a very strong season by the big, thick red line up front. Despite a couple hiccups, Tyler Marz was very strong in pass protection, Ryan Groy put up an All-Big Ten caliber year, the combination of Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen handled the snapping duties admirably, Kyle Costigan had another strong season despite battling through injuries and Rob Havenstein was a rock at right tackle. The group only loses Groy to graduation, and look for Lewallen to shift to his spot at left guard next season. Depth is thin, but the Badgers are bringing in six (and counting) offensive linemen in this recruiting class, so we should see some freshmen in the two-deep next season. Look for this unit to remain strong going forward.
Zack Miller: Allowing opposing teams to record just 16 sacks on the season (second-lowest in the Big Ten) is nothing to scoff at. The Badgers have to be happy with how their offensive line performed this season in both the passing game and the patented Wisconsin rushing attack. Ryan Groy was the star of this group, in my opinion, and with the big fella moving on due to graduation there are bound to be questions surrounding this group come next fall - if not this spring. With six lineman set to join the roster for next season, the Badgers will benefit from having their young guys competing against one another in preparation for the season with their eyes on starting spots. Expect another stellar year from this group in 2014.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.