Published August 25, 2015
MADISON, Wis. -- When Joel Stave takes his first snap of the season against No. 3 Alabama, a new-look offensive line will be trying to protect the Wisconsin senior quarterback.
Barring injury, the only two returning starters are redshirt senior Tyler Marz at left tackle and redshirt junior Dan Voltz at center.
But at a school where the offensive linemen are viewed as rock stars, Stave didn't appear to be concerned about who would be helping keep him upright while also paving the way for projected starting running back Corey Clement.
"If there are two offensive line positions that you'd want returning, it would be the center and the left tackle," Stave said. "I know we lost some very good seniors on the offensive line.
"But with the guys we have coming back, coupled with some young guys I think who are really ready to step into a big-time role, I think we will be pretty good up there."
Clement is succeeding record-setting running back Melvin Gordon.
"We always reload. The way we recruit these linemen and the way they come in, they know the expectations of what you need to be," Clement said. "How you need to carry yourself and how big you need to be able to play on a Wisconsin line takes a lot. It's not easy. You've got to do whatever it takes to be consistent."
Replacements are needed for a trio of fifth-year seniors in left guard Kyle Costigan, guard/center Dallas Lewallen and right tackle Rob Havenstein.
Voltz, though, said plenty of competition in training camp will help keep the Badgers' tradition of stellar line play intact.
"Every year guys have to step up and be that guy," Voltz said. "This year we've got three (starting) spots to fill. But we've got three guys potentially who are going to step in and do a great job."
Marz acknowledged there are more questions than answers at this time but is confident it will be business as usual once the season begins.
"It's obvious that we don't have as much depth as we've had in the past," he said. "This spring we had some time to work out some wrinkles. This fall, it's going to be huge to sort these guys out, to have them make some strides.
"These guys will be young but they're still good players. Michael Deiter's had some experience here. Dan (Voltz) is going to be a good leader for those inside guys to bring them along and hopefully I can be a great leader for the outside, the tackles, to work with them and focus on their technique."
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Rudolph couldn't wait to get started determining who will join Marz and Voltz on the field.
"We have a good pool to find the right guys to fill in around them," Rudolph said of Marz and Voltz. Rudolph worked with several different options on Wednesday during the team's first day in pads.
The No. 1 unit included Marz and Voltz along with senior Ray Ball at left guard and Dieter, a redshirt freshman, at right guard with redshirt freshman Beau Benzschawel at right tackle.
Benzschawel got work with the No. 1 offense for the first time in camp, in place of redshirt sophomore Hayden Biegel, who was with the first unit most of the spring.
Deiter also saw time at center, while freshman Jon Dietzen worked at left guard, redshirt junior Walker Williams at right guard and redshirt freshman Jacob Maxwell at left tackle.
"Ray Ball, Walker Williams have been in the program for a number of years," coach Paul Chryst said. "Can they elevate? And a lot of it is being consistent. I think they've shown both care a ton. I mean, I love that part of it. They work and then there is going to be a group of young guys that need to step in."