Fall Camp Guide: offensive line

The pieces are in place for a dominant quintet

Starters returning (5 of 5) – center Donovan Raiola, 6-3, 280, Jr. (14 career starts, 18 games played); left guard Dan Buenning, 6-4, 313, Sr. (37-39); right guard Jonathan Clinkscale, 6-3, 304, Sr. (32-38); left tackle Morgan Davis, 6-5, 319, Sr. (13-25); right tackle Mike Lorenz, 6-5, 315, Sr. (13-27).

More key returnees – left tackle Joe Thomas, 6-8, 285, So.; right guard Jake Wood, 6-6, 289, Jr.; center Jason Palermo, 6-3, 285, Jr.; left guard Matt Lawrence, 6-5, 282, Jr., tackle Danny Kaye, 6-8, 318, R-Fr.

Newcomers – freshman tackle Kraig Urbik, 6-6, 315.

Also in the mix – guard/center/tackle Marcus Coleman, 6-6, 311, R-Fr.; tackle Andrew Weininger, 6-6, 303, R-Fr.; guard Luke Knauf, 6-4, 312, R-Fr.; tackle Mike Van Someren, 6-7, 315, R-Fr.; guard Randy Gyllin, 6-3, 313, R-Fr.

Key departures – none.

Additional departures – tackle Fred Nieforth.

Reasons to be excited – The Badgers are experienced, deep, talented and huge up front. Dan Buenning and Donovan Raiola are award candidates and Joe Thomas should be. Thomas was phenomenal in spring workouts last year and it would be very surprising if he does not win the starting left tackle spot, pushing Morgan Davis to right tackle in the process. Having Mike Lorenz as a swing lineman is a very positive situation. There is tons of depth with veteran reserves Jason Palermo, Jake Wood and Matt Lawrence and a slew of quality redshirt freshmen.

Cause for trepidation – The Badgers went into spring workouts focusing on the offensive line as an area that needed improvement. The unit has struggled in pass protection the last few years, something that Thomas' fixture at left tackle should sure up.

Camp questions – The obvious focal point of camp is the tackle situation, where Wisconsin has three viable starters. Thomas and Lorenz each have experience serving as a third tackle in short yardage situations and one or both will get that type of work again this year.

Jake Wood worked with the first team at right guard prior to suffering an injury in spring workouts and may be able to push for playing time this fall.

With four seniors among the Badgers' top six linemen, it is not too early to look ahead to 2005. Who will step up this fall and position themselves to start next year? Two players to watch are Danny Kaye and Marcus Coleman, who had very good springs and can play multiple positions.

With Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez disclosing last week that Thomas will indeed receive some work at defensive end, there are plenty of questions as to what form that will take in practice and what that means for Thomas the left tackle. It is not inconceivable that Thomas would swing between left tackle and defensive end, splitting time at each. Or he could start at left tackle, play every snap there, and then work in here and there at defensive end. It would be borderline unheard of, but Thomas is the type of athlete who could get it done.

Player on the rise – Thomas. He has elite athleticism for an offensive lineman and possesses the strength and intelligence to become a truly great left tackle. Thomas has future All-American written all over him.

Player on the spot – Lorenz, the most likely player to end up No. 3 at tackle. Lorenz is a quality lineman who will play in some capacity this season, but he will need a strong fall camp to retain a starting spot.

Forecast – This line may not be as good as Wisconsin's last two Rose Bowl Championship lines, but it should be close. The pieces are in place for the type of mauling front line that has been the Badgers ticket to a successful season.

BadgerNation.com projected depth chart

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