The key to any good offense starts up front with the offensive line and Wisconsin had a very good one in the 2017 season. Three Badgers offensive lineman were recognized as All-Americans for the season with Michael Deiter, David Edwards, and Beau Benzschawel claiming a place on one of the various teams.
In the last 10 seasons, Wisconsin has had 14 offensive linemen recognized as All-American. The offensive identity of the team is always to have a good rushing attack. Wisconsin certainly fulfilled that this season as the Badgers were able to run for 229.5 yards per game, good enough for 21st nationally.
While Deiter, Edwards, and Benzschawel were all deserving of the national recognition that they received, it’s also worth noting that center Tyler Biadasz was also recognized as a consensus All-Big Ten third team member for his season.
While it’s tough for the common person to be able to break down individual offensive line play, it’s easy to tell that the offense typically will only go as far as the men up front take it. Wisconsin was able average over 30 points per game this season which certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of this outstanding offensive line.
To simplify things even more, running back Jonathan Taylor would not be nearly as successful as he was without an offensive line this good.
The offensive line also provided what was arguably the most entertaining moment of the season when Deiter caught a lateral from quarterback Alex Hornibrook against Illinois and rumbled 4 yards into the end zone.
The tight end is often thought of as an extension of the offensive line in the type of offense that Wisconsin runs. The Badgers certainly utilized that position this season with Troy Fumagalli as the main threat. Fumagalli, like three of the offensive linemen, was named an All-American by several outlets for his season.
Despite missing two games due to a leg injury, he was the leading receiver for Wisconsin in 2017. He totaled 43 catches for 516 yards and reached the end zone four times. Fumagalli was Hornibrook’s security blanket throughout the season, often being found on third down for conversions or in the red zone.
Wisconsin also received contributions from Zander Neuville and Kyle Penniston throughout the year at the tight end spot. Those two primarily served more purpose as run-blockers, although they did combine for 16 catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
GRADE: A – Simply put, offensive lines don’t get the amount of love that they deserve, but Wisconsin had one of the best in the country this season. The Badgers do not reach the heights offensively that they did this season without a really strong group up front.