Fall Camp Guide: Offensive line

Joe Thomas (UW Athletics)

Joe Thomas and Donovan Raiola are among the elite; the rest is unproven

Starters returning: Senior center Donovan Raiola, 6-foot-3, 294 pounds (2004 stats – 12 starts, 12 games); and junior left tackle Joe Thomas, 6-8, 295 (12-12).

More key returnees: Sophomore tackle Danny Kaye, 6-8, 318 (0-2); senior left guard Matt Lawrence, 6-5, 288 (0-9); senior right guard Jason Palermo, 6-3, 307 (0-11); sophomore lineman Marcus Coleman, 6-6, 309 (0-5); and redshirt freshman right tackle Kraig Urbik, 6-6, 317.

Newcomers: Freshmen left guard Andy Kemp, 6-6, 315 (enrolled at UW for spring 2005 semester); and lineman Eric VandenHeuvel, 6-7, 340.

Also in the mix: Sophomore center Luke Knauf, 6-4, 304; sophomore guard/tackle Andrew Weininger, 6-6, 314 (0-1); and sophomore tackle Mike Van Someren, 6-7, 315.

Key departures: Left guard Dan Buenning (12-12), right guard Jonathan Clinkscale (12-12), right tackle Morgan Davis (9-12) and right tackle Mike Lorenz (started three games).

Additional departures: Guard Randy Gyllin and tackle Jake Wood.

Reasons to be excited: Thomas is one of the nation's best left tackles… Raiola is one of the Big Ten's top centers… When a team needs to replace two four-year starters at guard, it is nice to be able to turn to two capable fifth-year seniors in Palermo and Lawrence… Both Urbik and Kaye have a great deal of potential and could thrive at right tackle.

Cause for trepidation: Replacing four of the top six linemen from a year ago will not be easy — that quartet all signed NFL contracts this spring/summer. The linemen that are poised to take over their spots in the depth all looked competent this spring, but the line was absolutely manhandled at times by the Badgers' defensive line. Whether that is a bad sign for the former or just a great sign for the latter remains to be seen. There was clearly room for significant improvement in the offensive line, however… The Badgers' have very little depth. An injury to Raiola or Thomas would be painful and any injuries to the top seven linemen would be cause for serious worries.

Camp questions: Who starts a right tackle? Urbik heads into camp as the No. 1, but Kaye will push him for playing time… Can Kemp start as a true freshman? It is certainly possible. He will be nipping at Lawrence's heals throughout camp... Will any of the other young linemen emerge and solidify the depth?

Forecast: Wisconsin's offensive line played pretty well on balance last season. It was a good pass-blocking group that struggled to get a consistent push in the running game but was decent in this regard for the most part. The Badgers may be a bit reversed this season. Thomas will be one of the best pass blocking linemen in the country but the newcomers to the starting lineup may be susceptible to good pass rushers this season… The Badgers plan to assert a physical running game, however, and Thomas and Raiola should thrive in this regard and lead what should be an adequate line overall… Lawrence and Palermo will be steady performers who play like the veterans they are. But they are not going to maul people on the interior. Kemp has that kind of potential. If he can play with consistency, watch for him to rotate at left guard with Lawrence… Urbik and Kaye both have a great deal of potential but expect some growing pains at right tackle. If Urbik asserts himself at that position, expect Kaye to switch to guard and serve as Palermo's understudy.

BadgerNation.com projected depth chart

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