MADISON - Left guard Ryan Groy is athletic enough to play left tackle. The redshirt senior proved as much last season when he filled in for the injured Ricky Wagner for a few games and held his own at a demanding position on such short notice. So with Wagner moving on to the NFL after graduation, Groy looked like a natural fit to slide over to the blindside and hold down that position during his senior season.
But the new Wisconsin coaching staff had other plans. As of right now the coaches are planning on keeping Groy at left guard this season instead of moving him to fill in for a departed upperclassman. The Badgers will have to put some fresh faces on the line this season either way, so even though Groy has the ability to play everywhere on the offensive line, new assistant coach T.J. Woods said he wanted his lone senior to stay put to stabilize the other positions.
"Ryan's a tremendously talented player and he has the ability to play all three [spots]," Woods said Monday. "But for us right now, there's some opportunity for some other guys to step up at the left tackle position.
'We want to build competition at that position and see what can come of it. It think it's also a huge thing to have a guy like Ryan next to Dan Voltz at center and help him progress as a redshirt freshman and [make] him into the guy we need him to be."
The Badgers are currently rotating Tyler Marz and Dallas Lewallen in and out of their first team offensive line, with Voltz billed as the heir apparent to Travis Frederick at center. Groy said he's happy to stay at left guard so he can help the younger players out as they're adjusting to their new positions.
"I've got a couple young bucks now on each side of me and I've got to kind of bring them along and teach them the way," Groy said Saturday after Wisconsin's first practice. "They're doing well. Dan had a few snaps on the ground, which can't happen, but it's the first day of practice. He's got to work on that and we will."
Lewallen in particular will have to adjust to playing tackle, since he's spent most of his college career playing on the interior of the offensive line. Woods said they're still playing a bit of "musical chairs," at this point in the spring because they're several offensive linemen short of the 15 they would like to have on scholarship. But at the same time he thinks the 6-foot-6 Lewallen can make a smooth transition to the outside of the line.
"There's a little more speed at the tackle position, a little more space and air," Woods said. "He's taking it well and he's taking the coaching well, and I have a lot of faith in Dallas."
At the same time, Woods said he's confident that Voltz can stick at center as a redshirt freshman and he's impressed with how Voltz has adapted to Woods' system so far.
"I'm definitely impressed with his aptitude," Woods said. "His ability to soak up the scheme, to listen to it, to learn it, and to execute it is something that I've been very impressed with so far.
"There's some growing pains that we're going through with him and that's part of the process. Every offensive lineman goes through those and that's what's spring ball's for. I'm super impressed with Dan so far and I'm excited to keep working with him."
In the mean time, Groy said he's hoping the new players on the line will sit back and watch how he and some of the other starters and upper classmen go about their business in spring camp.
"[I'd] watch the older guys, watch what they do and try to emulate what they do on the field," Groy said. "It's hard to be coached unless you see it for yourself. I think you really need to watch what the older guys do."
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