Notes: Play-calling switch, Lyles' recovery, Bruss a quiet leader
With four spring practices now in the books, Joe Rudolph, along with three veteran linemen, met with the media Wednesday morning.
Rudolph, now in his sixth year at Wisconsin under head coach Paul Chryst, discussed the transition away from play-calling in 2021. Kayden Lyles also detailed his injury riddled-past, and Logan Bruss touched on his new role as the leader of the offensive line room.
Joe Rudolph talks about his move away from play-calling
Shortcomings on the offensive side of the ball were front and center when looking at Wisconsin's struggles this past season. Following eruptions for 45 and 49 points in the first two games, the Badgers combined to score 20 points total over their next three contests.
This off-season saw a switch in the play-calling structure from an effort between both Chryst and Rudolph, to a role solely manned by the head coach.
"I feel like (Chryst and I) have a good way of complimenting each other and I’ve always appreciated that and enjoyed that. Last year with everything going on, we kind of changed it up and I was happy to step into whatever role coach needed," Rudolph explained.
"There were times more so the flow was going through the run game, and that felt very comfortable to call. And games where it wasn’t going through the run game, it was going to be more pass oriented. I felt a little conflicted helping with the line and dealing with the changes that were happening in the passing game."
Kayden Lyles explains his rehab from a pair of injuries
When Rudolph laid out the two-deep on the offensive line Wednesday, there was a familiar name starting at center: Kayden Lyles. Now a redshirt senior, Lyles is entering his third year as a starter after working at guard in 2019 and at center this past season. And for the second consecutive year, he'll be working his way back from an injury.
Lyles has had a pair of hip surgeries - one just before the Rose Bowl in 2020 and one later that month in January - and a knee surgery following an injury he suffered in the first quarter against Indiana.
"With the knee injury and the hip injury, I feel like I am at 100 percent and there is no doubt that I am progressing," Lyles said. "I’d definitely say that I am back to 100 percent."
The return to full strength wasn't without a couple twists and turns. Lyles' rehab from the hip surgeries was stalled by the pause COVID-19 forced.
"I feel like I was making really good progress," Lyles said. "I knew I was going to be out for spring ball and thought I was going to be making good progress. But because of COVID we got sent home and I got sent home right in the peak of my rehab where I was supposed to make that transition off my crutches and into running."
The unusual offseason in 2020 was tough on everyone, much less someone returning from a significant injury.
"Last year it was a little more survival mode, going through what he (Lyles) went through in the offseason with surgeries and procedures, and he is one tough joker. There was only one guy who came in here and went through that and that was (Tyler) Biadasz," Rudolph said. "For him to be able to do that without all the reps behind him was really a credit to him, and I think he has taken a real step forward."
Lyles, who has appeared in 25 games with 11 starts, is familiar with his most recent setback. The injury occurred when a defensive back went for a cut tackle but had been knocked off balance, resulting in his shoulder pad coming down on Lyles' knee.
"It was kind of interesting, almost the same thing happened to me in junior year of high school," Lyles recalled. "Almost the same injury and because it was the second time around and it tore in the same place, it recovered faster."
"His health is much better, his playing strength is better and now the work is on trusting the technique and details and it’s not about how we can do this to be OK with the rep," Rudolph added.
Logan Bruss leading by example within the group
Bruss, now with 33 games and 26 starts under his belt, has slid into the role as one of the most veteran lineman in the room. And though it may not be a familiar spot for him, the fifth-year senior has taken on the role of a leader.
"You get to your senior year, you feel a responsibility that it's your time to take over the reins and I just think we have a good group of senior guys," Bruss said.
The Appleton, Wis., native is now entering his third year as a starter and fourth year as a key contributor. According to his peers, his play on the practice field speaks for itself when it comes to Bruss' leadership style.
"I think he leads by example. I think he’s definitely increased his voice but when you watch him, you’re kind of like, ‘damn, that guy is doing the stuff I want to put on tape,''" Rudolph said. "I think he earns a voice through how he plays."
Lyles, who shares a unique bond with Bruss as someone also majoring in industrial engineering, echoed much of the same praise.
"He is somebody that leads by example. He is somebody that is going to go out on the field and work in every play, every opportunity that he has," Lyles said. "It’s something that when you’re watching him, you pick up from."
Bruss' responsibilities as a leader are stacked on top of a return to right tackle after playing inside at right guard last season.
"It’s just something I’ve been comfortable with and played at a couple years ago," Bruss said. "Just coming back from guard, there are a lot of things that you have to relearn and things a lot different from guard. But, overall, things are the same. Hopefully I can use those experiences at guard from last year to be even better this year."