With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few days we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.
Returning: Michael Deiter (SR), Beau Benzschawel (SR), David Edwards (JR), Jon Dietzen (JR), Tyler Biadasz (RS SO), Jason Erdmann (JR), Patrick Kasl (RS SO), Cole Van Lanen (RS SO), Brett Connors (SR), David Moorman (JR), Micah Kapoi (SR), Logan Bruss (RS FR), Kayden Lyles (RS FR), Tyler Beach (RS FR), Alex Fenton (RS FR)
Leaving: No one
Arriving: Michael Furtney (3-star)
Biggest question: How will Wisconsin get its five best linemen on the field?
For the first time in nine years, Wisconsin will return all five starters and key backups along the offensive line. But it remains to be seen if the line makeup will hold to form or whether there will be some changes.
Let’s begin at right tackle, where junior David Edwards started all 14 games in 2017. Named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, the junior made big strides in just his second year as an offensive lineman and should continue that progression next season. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Kasl replaced an injured Edwards in the Orange Bowl and more than held his own.
Next to Edwards was Beau Benzschawel, who earned first-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and debated turning pro before deciding to come back for his final year. He’s started the last 30 games at right guard and should hold that spot again in 2018.
The other three spots is where the intrigue starts.
Michael Deiter was very good in his first year playing at left tackle, but it’s not his best position. And if the Badgers can get Kasl or redshirt sophomore Cole Van Lanen to step up and compete for the spot, it may allow Deiter to move back inside where he spent his first two years starting. If that happens, expect him to take over at left guard where juniors Jon Dietzen and Jason Erdmann split reps much of the year.
At center, redshirt sophomore Tyler Biadasz earned freshman All-American honors and looks like multi-year starter. However, Wisconsin is also said to be very high on redshirt freshman Kayden Lyles. A 4-star recruit and the highest-rated member of the 2017 recruiting class, Lyles was a load for the Badgers No. 1 defense to deal with as a part of the scout team. If Deiter remains at left tackle, it’s possible that in an effort to get their best five linemen on the field, Lyles or Biadasz could move to guard and slide in with the first-team offense while the other remains the starting center.
Wisconsin’s depth figures to be the best it has had since at least 2012. With Erdmann, along with seniors Brett Connors and Micah Kapoi, the Badgers have veteran backups with starting experience in multiple spot, while the position group also includes talented young players like Kasl and Van Lanen, along with redshirt freshmen such as Lyles, Tyler Beach, Logan Bruss and Alex Fenton.
It’s been a few years since Wisconsin was truly dominant along the line, but with good recruiting and the guidance of offensive line coach Joe Rudolph, the Badgers have a chance to reclaim their elite status in 2018 and beyond.
Predicted depth chart:
LT: Cole Van Lanen (RS SO), Patrick Kasl (RS SO)
LG: Michael Deiter (SR), Jon Dietzen (JR)
C: Tyler Biadasz (RS SO), Kayden Lyles (RS FR)
RG: Beau Benzschawel (SR), Jason Erdmann (JR)
RT: David Edwards (JR), Patrick Kasl (RS SO)