Unofficially, the University of Wisconsin football team used at least four different offensive line combinations during Wisconsin’s 17-9 win over the University of Iowa last Saturday.
The game began with the offensive line UW has started with since Sept. 24 at Michigan State University, with junior Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle, sophomore Michael Deiter at left guard, sophomore Brett Connors at center, sophomore Beau Benzschawel at right guard and sophomore Jacob Maxwell at right tackle.
After two games of inconsistent line play and an inability to get the running game going, the coaching staff instilled some shakeups against Ohio State University, subbing in different personnel on several drives.
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Last Saturday, different combinations included placing freshman Jon Dietzen at left guard with Connors coming out, Deiter moving to center, Micah Kapoi replacing Benzschawel at right guard and David Edwards, a converted tight end, taking over for Maxwell at right tackle.
UW head coach Paul Chryst said the rotation idea came about in the spring. Of course, some of the switches have been heavily impacted by health issues too. Maxwell is listed as questionable for Saturday (right shoulder).
“We’ve had a lot of practice preparing for it because of the circumstances,” Chryst said. “We’re not trying to do it to invent something that doesn’t need to be there. Some of these have been when someone’s hurt. There is a philosophy of you want to try to get your best players on the field.”
Deiter along with Ramczyk are the only constants on the line, which has forced the pair into managing different positions, even on back-to-back drives at times this season. Deiter said confidence is key when moving around on the line.
“You just have to have the right mindsets,” Deiter said. “You gotta know the different techniques that each position requires and you have to be confident in both positions.”
The sophomore right guard also said this would be slightly easier to manage if UW could establish five guys in definitive positions on the line, but not by much. He also said it’s important to keep guys who are banged-up fresh and limit their snaps to avoid further injury.
Benzschawel took game time off for the first time this season last week against the Hawkeyes. He said it was strange not being in the huddle for every snap, but that his legs felt much fresher as the game went progressed.
That freshness has helped the line improve, especially in the running game. Pass protection is still an area of emphasis, Benzschawel said, not only for himself, but for the unit as a whole. Benzschawel’s struggles in the pass protection game come from losing his legs as the game goes on, he said, so he welcomes the time off to make sure he’s at his best during crunch time.
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Kapoi started six games for the Badgers last season, but injuries to both of his ankles have limited him in 2016. Starting would be nice, Kapoi said, but at the end of the day, all that matters is what’s best for the team.
“Obviously everybody wants to be that guy. Everybody wants to be a starter,” Kapoi said. “For us, it’s more working as a group, gelling together … At this point, I think we all are comfortable with playing whoever is next to us.”