MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.
Today we'll move on to the offensive line, after I broke down the tight ends on Tuesday.
Michael Deiter could contribute right away
Deiter served as Wisconsin's starting center basically from his first day in spring camp, after Dallas Lewallen and Dan Voltz had to sit out to rehab injuries. By all accounts Deiter thrived during his first 15 practices with the Badgers. He was composed for a true freshman, and handled a high-stress position without botching a lot of snaps or making other mistakes.
Near the end of camp offensive line coach T.J. Woods said that he would feel comfortable putting Deiter into a game, and that after Lewallen and Voltz return this fall he'll try and get Deiter more snaps at both guard spots. Deiter's emergence gave the Badgers an extra boost of depth when they needed it the most. They are probably going to try and redshirt him while keeping him on the travel squad, but if worst came to worst the Badgers would feel comfortable enough using him in a real game.
The interior spots on the line are up for grabs
Lewallen and Voltz sitting out of spring camp had other domino effects, specifically at left guard. Ray Ball was the big beneficiary: he took almost all of the first team reps at left guard this spring, and put himself in serious contention for the real starting job this fall. With Voltz and Lewallen set to return this fall, the Badgers will have to sort out who plays where soon.
T.J. Woods has always said that he wants to play his five best offensive linemen, whether or not they are prototypical fits for each starting spot. That probably means that Voltz and Lewallen have the inside track on both the center and left guard spots, with Ball backing up whoever ends up at left guard. But getting so many reps during the spring has at least opened up the door for Ball to win the starting job- a strong performance in fall camp could turn that into more or a reality.
The depth is better, but more bodies are needed
Deiter proved to be a shot in the arm when the Badgers were very concerned about their depth during spring camp. They also moved a few players, defensive lineman Logan Schmidt and tight end Alex Walker, to the offensive line to help out their numbers. The Badgers also finished spring camp without any of their linemen suffering major injuries, and are set to bring in five additional offensive linemen this fall.
But with three more seniors set to graduate after the 2014 season, the Badgers probably need to sign another five offensive linemen to get up to their magic number of 16 that they have been chasing since Gary Andersen took over. It's a tall order, but the Badgers will reap the benefits in spring and fall camps to come if they can piece together a third string offensive line to give their two-deep players more of a breather.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.