Spring break is over, so the University of Wisconsin football program is back at spring practice and raring to go. Plenty of positions are up for grabs, including quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and three spots in the secondary.
While we'll certainly touch on some of these areas in this week's edition of the spring practice stock report, the offensive line is also an area that needs to be addressed. Injuries have decimated the unit, and with two openings on the line, there has been plenty of shuffling around so far this spring.
The annual spring game is just a few weeks away, and that ought to help head coach Gary Andersen gauge where his team is at, but for now, let's analyze whose stock is rising and whose is on the decline after three weeks of spring practice in Madison.
The left tackle position appeared to be a battle between junior Dallas Lewallen and sophomore Tyler Marz, but senior Ryan Groy has recently been receiving a majority of the snaps there.
On the surface, that may be discouraging news for Lewallen, the 6'6", 318-pound offensive lineman, but according to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, there is still a spot on the line for Lewallen.
Senior LG Ryan Groy got his first work of spring at LT during part of Monday practice for #Badgers. Dallas Lewallen moved from LT to LG.
— Tom Mulhern (@TomMulhernWSJ) April 2, 2013
With several other offensive linemen battling injury, Lewallen is taking advantage of the opportunity. Coming out of spring break, there were only eight healthy offensive linemen, and among the injured, Kyle Costigan is likely the only one who is guaranteed a job next season (right guard).
Even though Lewallen suffered from cramps earlier in the week, versatility and extended reps at both left tackle and left guard bode well for his chances to contribute in 2013.
As much Groy would like to remain at left guard, the position at which he earned second-team all-conference honors last season, it's looking more and more like the senior lineman will shift over to left tackle.
That distinction was held by Rick Wagner in 2012, but with Wagner moving on to greener pastures, the most important position on the offensive line is up for grabs. And as of late, Groy is getting more time over at left tackle (Via Mulhern).
LG Ryan Groy getting more work at LT, for second straight practice. Looking like that might be line's best option, for now.— Tom Mulhern (@TomMulhernWSJ) April 4, 2013
So why is this bad news for sophomore Tyler Marz? Well, Lewallen had been receiving more snaps at left tackle before shifting over to left guard, and that doesn't leave a place for Marz on the line, as Dan Voltz (center), Costigan and Rob Havenstein (right tackle) are comfortably ahead in their position battles.
Marz received more playing time than Lewallen last season, so it would appear at this very moment that he's taken a step back under Andersen's new regime at Wisconsin.
Even with all of the depth the Badgers have on the defensive line, junior defensive tackle Warren Herring has been getting a lot of work this spring (via Benjamin Worgull of Badger Nation).
The defensive line may appear crowded, as all four starters from last season are returning, but keep in mind that new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is going to be using a 3-4 formation. That means defensive ends like David Gilbert and Tyler Dippel will likely be seeing time at outside linebacker.
Therefore, Herring has seen time at nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme during spring practice and may just happen to be the ideal fit for the three-man line.
Another big body who fits the mold of nose tackle is senior Beau Allen, who unlike Herring actually started at defensive tackle last season. Allen is rehabbing from ankle surgery, and his experience and seniority will probably win him the job in the end, but increased looks for Herring can't hurt.
Place kicker at Wisconsin was ripe for the picking last season. With sophomore kicker Kyle French struggling mightily, Jack Russell had the opportunity to seize the opportunity. But Russell failed to make a field goal in two attempts and even missed an extra point.
Overall, French went 10-of-16 in 2012, setting the table for a kicking competition during the offseason. So far this spring, the soon-to-be junior is making a statement, having hit 60 of his 65 attempts during spring practice according to new special teams coach Jeff Genyk (via Jeff Potrykus of JSOnline).
It might not be the most publicized battle at Madison, but the kicking woes of the Badgers were quite evident last season. The fact that Russell wasn't able to fare any better than French considering his poor performance combined with French's bounce-back this spring isn’t a promising sign for Russell.
With so many players on the defensive line out with injuries, lesser-known players are getting an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the new coaching staff. We're currently seeing it with Herring, and sophomore Jesse Hayes is another player who should be on everyone's radar.
Realistically, we can't expect Hayes to see much of the field next season with the experience ahead of him on the depth chart, but according to Worgull, Hayes took a step forward this week.
#Badgers practice over. Jesse Hayes made a TON of plays in the backfield today. Kid looks real good as hybrid DE
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) April 3, 2013
In general, the defense has been making a lot of plays in spring practice, but one thing that's important to take away from Worgull's tweet is that he looked good as a hybrid-type player, meaning Hayes seems to fit the 3-4 mold pretty well as a defensive end/linebacker combo.
The extra reps he's receiving due to injured players should ultimately benefit Hayes down the road.
Two starting cornerback jobs are up for grabs, and it's looking more and more like sophomore Darius Hillary and junior Peniel Jean will assume those roles.
That's not to say Hillary and Jean should be penciled in quite yet, because there is still a lot of time for them to lose their grasp on those jobs. With so many players competing for these openings, any slip-up could be costly.
Junior Devin Gaulden saw playing time in his first two seasons at Wisconsin and was thought to be someone who could step in and contribute, perhaps even in the nickel role, but after tearing his ACL last fall, he recently required more surgery according to his Twitter account (via Mulhern).
Even if Gaulden is ready to go this coming fall, he is missing valuable time considering the new schemes he must get accustomed to under Andersen's new staff. Redshirt freshman Hugs Etienne was also recently banged up in practice, making the Badgers a little thin in the secondary at the moment.
That appears to be a recurring theme for Wisconsin this spring.