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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Groy emerges as next leader in line

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For the Wisconsin football offensive line, adversity is nothing new.

As the Badgers stumbled out of the gates last fall, much of Wisconsin’s slow start was blamed on the offensive line and its inability to open up space for then-senior running back Montee Ball – who was held to one touchdown against some of UW’s easiest opponents through the first two games, despite scoring an NCAA tying record of 39 touchdowns the season before.


As the season wore on, the offensive line improved and before long, the Badgers were right back where they expected, helping Ball finish the season with some of the more impressive running statistics in the Big Ten.

So when spring practice rolled around in March and the offensive line began to dwindle with injury after injury, a new offensive line corps – replacing veteran starters such as Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick from a year ago – has taken the same approach that they did in the fall.

“[It is a rallying point], absolutely,” redshirt senior Ryan Groy said. “You’ve got to deal with the injuries as they come. That will happen, so you’ve just got to deal with that adversity and go with it.”

With projected starter redshirt junior Kyle Costigan out this spring with a knee injury and other players in and out with other injuries, it would have been easy, and maybe even understandable, for Groy and his positional group to consider the spring a lost cause.

Instead, Groy and the remaining members of the offensive line – which at its leanest times has boasted just eight healthy players this spring – have chosen to look at the positives, citing the ability to work on some of the more intricate aspects of the game since it is not hard to come by reps.

“With such a small group, you can really focus on guys,” Groy said. “You can really get nitpicky with little details and stuff like that. I think it’s almost easier this way.”

For new offensive line coach TJ Woods, the ability to work with a smaller group of players this spring has been, in some ways, a blessing in disguise.

In a tough, physical conference such as the Big Ten, injuries and wear and tear are expected. Woods said he believes the opportunity to practice this spring dealing with those types of situations could prove invaluable on fall Saturdays.

“To me that is what this is preparing us for,” Woods said. “It’s the Big Ten, now. We’re going to have injuries. I mean every year is going to be like that, so we have to be able … to play different positions and have different lineups and still execute at a high level.”

Still, while the offensive line’s situation may have its advantages, it also has its drawbacks.

With fewer players to distribute reps to, the wear and tear of practice so far has already seen those that are healthy enough to play pick up a number of nicks and scrapes – forcing them to take turns missing a practice here and there in order to recover.

As a result, the coaching staff has had to adjust spring practices – limiting many scenarios during practice and even adjusting the upcoming spring game into more of a controlled scrimmage – so as not to aggravate the situation further.

Helping Woods guide the team through this tough stretch and what could be considered a transitional spring season with both Frederick and Wagner moving on to the NFL draft, has been Groy.

Now one of the most experienced players on Wisconsin roster, Groy has taken it upon himself to help the younger guys in the new-look offensive line as they head into the new season – working hard to set an example both on and off the practice field.

And his coach and teammates have noticed.

“Ryan is trying to fill that role right now, and he has been doing a good job of it,” Woods said of the redshirt senior. “But we need some more than just Ryan and we’re trying to work to cultivate that.

“We’ve got some younger guys who’ve got some experience and I think that’s part of the transition.”

“For me, I have never played in a game yet,” redshirt freshman Dan Voltz added, who’s been practicing as the starting center on the No. 1 offensive line for Wisconsin. “So having guys like Groy who have played a lot, they can pick out all of the little things that you are going to see in games during practice, and that is really helpful for all of us.”

Still, despite all of the challenges and inexperience that Groy and the offensive line have faced this spring, their goal remains the same: to maintain their reputation as one of the best offensive lines in the country.

“We want to become that dominating line that we once were,” Groy said. “We really want to roll over some people next fall.”

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