The 2013 season was an odd year for the Wisconsin Badgers offensive line in the sense that it seems like every other year one of them is selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Ryan Groy went undrafted, but made his way onto the Chicago Bears roster in free agency.
Most teams measure an offensive line’s success by the number of times a running back goes for over 1,000 yards or how few times their quarterback is sacked or hurried, but the Badgers seem to operate on an entirely higher level.
Just one 1,000-yard rusher isn’t enough, you need to get two in one season. Your running back scored 15 touchdowns? That’s cute because Montee Ball had 39 in 2011 and averaged 26 in his final three seasons. Wisconsin had 21 guys eclipse 1,000 yards since 1993, including a few when Ron Dayne passed 2,000.
And it looks like we’re in for more of the same.
Rob Havenstein leads 2014’s line as the most experienced big sexy in the bunch. Havenstein has 28 starts and is the biggest at 6-foot-8, 333 pounds. Tanner McEvoy will be well protected on the strong side, but defenders shouldn’t just think they can just slide over and attack the left.
— Robby Havenstein (@RobBigDaddy78) August 24, 2014
I’m pretty sure that’s a whole cow.
Tyler Marz (6-5, 321) returns to his 2013 role as left tackle and will bookend Dallas Lewallen (6-6, 322) at left guard, Dan Voltz (6-3, 313) and senior Kyle Costigan (6-5, 315) at right guard next to Havenstein.
For those of you at home, that’s an average starting offensive line of 6-5 1/2 and 320 pounds. Small, I know.
But this line is more than just size and experience, it’s out to prove that the Badgers can once again be powerhouses in both run blocking AND pass protection. If Wisconsin is to be taken seriously as a final four candidate, it must prove the year with Russell Wilson was not just a fluke.
The Badgers were 8th in rushing last year, but 52nd in passing efficiency.
Behind the front five is a pair of 6-7, 320-pound shorties in junior guard Ray Ball and sophomore tackle Walker Williams. Ball has by far more experience than Williams, playing in 17 games over two seasons to one game. I expect Ball to substitute well for the likes of Lewallen, however I am apprehensive of Williams fresh off the bench for Marz.
LSU is a tough challenge for the Wisconsin in Week 1, but as the non-conference season pits the Badgers against Western Illinois, Bowling Green and USF, hopefully these inexperienced backups will get some much-needed fourth-quarter reps.