MADISON - The first day of practice is typically one to shake the summer rust off and starting getting into a football groove again. Now for offensive line coach Joe Rudolph and his players, especially since time isn’t on their side.
While the full pads won’t come on until later this week, Rudolph appeared to be pushing his group to the maximum on the first day of Wisconsin’s fall camp practice Monday, engaging in plenty of one-on-one battles, diving on the hot turf to simulate cut blocks and doing conditioning drills that involved medicine balls, sleds and pads.
A program long known for producing high quality, Wisconsin finds itself in the unusual position of not knowing who its starting five will be when they take on No.3 Alabama in 25 days in Arlington, Texas. The first-team offensive line that ran Monday is the group projected to be that group with senior left tackle Tyler Marz, senior left guard Ray Ball, junior center Dan Voltz, redshirt freshman Michael Deiter and redshirt sophomore Hayden Biegel Hayden Biegel.
The only major concern is chemistry, as Voltz and Ball missed significant portions of spring.
“We have a general idea of who is going to be the starting five, but at the end of the day it’s what the boss man (Rudolph) wants,” said Ball. “I also tell myself it’s his job. He has to put the five guys out there that he can trust and do what he’s coached us to do.”
Depth is also a concern. Rudolph used Jacob Maxwell at left tackle, Jon Dietzen at left guard, Micah Kapoi at center, Walker Williams at right guard and Beau Benzschawel at right tackle. With the exception of Williams, the rest of the group are redshirt freshmen or younger.
Lucky for Wisconsin, its defensive line is in the same boat. After graduating two starters and needing to develop some playmakers, the two groups combined for one-on-one battles that was the most spirted part of practice.
Of the players who stood out: Brett Conners was sound against Jeremy Patterson in the interior, Chikwe Obasih also had some good battles against Marz and some of the reserves and redshirt freshman Zander Neuville continues to look more and more like a contributor after beating Biegel and others off the edge.
“I appreciated their energy and their enthusiasm to it,” said Chryst. “It was a good start. Obviously we’ve got a ways to go, but we’ll get there if we keep stacking days like this.”
Since releasing a roster at Big Ten Media Days in late July, Wisconsin has made a number of position changes: D'Cota Dixon has moved from linebacker to safety, Garret Dooley has moved off the line to outside linebacker, A.J. Jordan has moved from defensive back to wide receiver, Arthur Goldberg is listed at defensive end, Arrington Farrar has moved from outside linebacker to safety and T.J. Watt has moved from tight end to outside linebacker.
Of the group, Dixon probably has the best chance to play this year with the thin depth caused by graduation and transfers. Chryst said whether or not Dixon gets a medical redshirt wouldn’t be decided until later in his career.
Extra Points: Defensive end James Adeyanju has transferred to Central Washington to finish his college career … In addition to Clemson inside linebacker Kellen Jones, Wisconsin has added junior offensive lineman Ryan Ramcyzk from UW-Steven's Point and sophomore wide receiver Ricky Finco from UW-Whitewater to the 105-man camp roster … Freshman offensive lineman David Moorman is not on the 105-man roster for fall camp. A picture on Twitter showed Moorman wearing a protective boot on his right foot, and Chryst said Moorman will likely be out three to four weeks and will likely redshirt… Sophomore linemen Ben Hemer and Aidan McNamara were also left off the camp roster while they recover from injuries, Chryst said … True freshmen Andrew James and Titus Booker were among those fielding punts.