Entering last season it seemed almost all but guaranteed that redshirt freshman Michael Deiter was going to start somewhere along the offensive line. With former head coach Gary Andersen and his staff able to keep his redshirt on despite some late injuries, Deiter verified the talk about his overwhelming talent for a lineman his age. On an offensive line that was plagued by injuries and inconsistency, Deiter was the reliable figure who started all 13 games, splitting between left guard and center, and helping Wisconsin survive a transition season in the trenches.
Stats: seven starts at left guard and six starts at center in 2015, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media.
Strengths: Deiter’s versatility jumps out pretty quickly on the field, being able to play both interior line positions well and confidently. That’s evident by his ability to start the season at left guard and move to center for the last five games of the season once Dan Voltz was lost for the season against Illinois. It appears Deiter’s home for the near future is center, as Voltz has said he will move to left guard when practices start in the fall. Deiter has matured into the center position, has shown that he can make the necessary line calls at center, execute the center-quarterback exchange and deliver on his blocking assignments for each play.
Weaknesses: It is difficult to pinpoint a weakness for Deiter, especially when he is consistently looking how he can get better at his position. Like all the other linemen, Deiter will need to continue working on his technique – including hand placement, footwork and movement in space - in order to help protect the quarterback and create the necessary holes for the running game.
Why he’s #6: Deiter may only be set to start his second season but he’s already one of Wisconsin’s best. Named to the 2016 Rimington Trophy watch list, given to the nation’s top center, Deiter’s dependability on the offensive line is important considering he played the most game reps from last year’s group. That experience translates well for this young group, especially at the center position. UW may have a starting five penciled in, but the Badgers are still thin with their depth. A healthy Deiter making the calls should allow him to take that next step in his third year in the program.
Overall: Deiter is quickly becoming one of Wisconsin’s classic offensive lineman: ability to play multiple positions, physical style of play and overall toughness. Injuries usually occur at some point along the offensive line throughout a season, but offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph knows Deiter’s versatility gives him options. That dependability makes Deiter key in Wisconsin’s success offensively this coming year, as Wisconsin will need him to help create some explosive running plays that were missing throughout the 2015 season.