With the 2018 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2019 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks 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 the players’ class in terms of what they’ll be in 2019. If someone was a sophomore in 2018, they will be called a junior here.
Returning: Tyler Biadasz (JR), Cole Van Lanen (JR), Logan Bruss (RS SO), Jason Erdmann (SR), Kayden Lyles (RS SO), Tyler Beach (RS SO), David Moorman (SR), Josh Seltzner (RS SO), Alex Fenton (RS SO), Michael Furtney (RS FR), Blake Smithback (RS SO), Andrew Lyons (RS FR)
Leaving: Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, Jon Dietzen, David Edwards
New arrivals: Logan Brown, Joe Tippmann
Biggest question: How do you replace four starters?
Wisconsin will have four new starters along the offensive line when it takes the field Aug. 30 at South Florida. That may seem like a daunting prospect but those around the program don’t sound overly worried.
Unlike after 2014, the last time there was this much turnover along the line, there is confidence that 2019 won’t be the struggle that 2015 was. That group featured four redshirt freshmen starters by the end of the season, including guards Beau Benzschawel and Michael Deiter, as the Badgers ranked 95th in the country in rushing. Last season they were rated sixth with Deiter and Benzschawel heading the group as seniors.
“I’m very confident in the guys that are coming back,” said Benzschawel, who is now prepping for the NFL Combine. “You won’t have anything to worry about. They know what they have to do. They just have to keep doing it and they’ll be just fine. I’m not worried about the upcoming line at all.”
Let’s start with what we know. The return of Bidasz is huge. One of the top rated centers in the country, he almost put his name in for April’s NFL Draft. Instead, he returns as the anchor and leader of the line after starting the last 27 games.
He’ll likely be joined on the starting unit by Cole Van Lanen at left tackle. The junior started just one game last season, sharing snaps with Jon Dietzen, but he graded out as the second-best tackle in the country, according to Pro Football Focus. With Dietzen walking away from football due to injuries, the job is all Van Lanen’s.
On the other side, it seems like it’ll be Logan Bruss’ job to lose. He started the final three games of the year in place of an injured David Edwards and the Badgers didn’t miss a beat on the ground averaging 296 yards.
The two guard spots are a little more unclear, but a safe bet would have senior Jason Erdmann on one side and redshirt sophomore Kayden Lyles on the other.
Erdmann has started just one game in his career, but has appeared in 41 and shared snaps with Dietzen at left guard in 2017. He also played a major role in Wisconsin’s jumbo packages last season as a tight end.
Lyles spent 2018 on the other side of the ball to help an undermanned defensive line, but practiced along the offensive line during bowl prep and will be back there full-time in the spring.
Both Erdmann and Lyles are also capable of playing center.
There is some uncertainty behind the presumed starting five. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Beach could be the No. 3 tackle, while senior David Moorman figures to be in the mix at the guard spots. Before suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp last year, redshirt sophomore walk-on Blake Smithback was being talked about among potential backup centers. Josh Seltzner, another redshirt sophomore that walked on, could end up as a backup at guard.
The Badgers are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of Logan Brown. The first five-star recruit to sign with Wisconsin since 2007, the massive tackle from Michigan may be in a position to push for a spot in the two-deep when practice begins in the fall.
Projected depth chart:
LT: Cole Van Lanen (JR), Logan Brown (FR)
LG: Jason Erdmann (SR), David Moorman (SR)
C: Tyler Biadasz (JR), Kayden Lyles (RS SO)
RG: Kayden Lyles (RS SO), Josh Seltzner (RS SO)
RT: Logan Bruss (RS SO), Tyler Beach (RS SO)