By TOM LEA
MADISON – The depth chart Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema released earlier last week pegged a two-man competition at the right guard position, highlighting the talents of sophomore Kyle Costigan and freshman Dan Voltz.
Later last week it became apparent junior Zac Matthias had emerged at the right guard spot, seemingly fully capable of beating out Costigan.
Now, just days away from Wisconsin’s season opener against Northern Iowa, there are three players listed on Bielema’s depth chart yet again.
Only instead of Voltz anchoring the No. 2 line at right guard, it’s sophomore Dallas Lewallen.
Lewallen, who has missed all of last year with a kneecap issue, seems to be making progress to the point that his coaching staff feels comfortable he’ll be able to at least add depth to the position.
“You guys remember back to his freshmen year,” Bielema said. “He was scout team player of the year. (He’s) someone we’re very intrigued with, a guy that obviously comes in with high accolades and high thought process.”
Bielema reiterated what his depth chart says — saying either Matthias or Costigan will emerge as the starter come Saturday afternoon. But Bielema didn’t mince words when describing the type of impact a healthy Lewallen can have at a definite position of need for the Badgers.
“He’s a guy that can run and bend,” Bielema said. “Because he’s been through a lot you’d think he’d be ready to play.”
Lewallen has been extremely limited throughout the past month, essentially restricted to activities that will bolster the leg strength in the afflicted area. Bielema did say he was with the team since the first day of fall camp, but that he and his staff haven’t been cleared to practice him during any meaningful drills.
“I know they did a strength test on him a week ago,” Bielema said. “And he was almost three times as strong on a good let versus a bad leg. They did the test (Monday) and he gained all of that back and was actually stronger on the hurt leg than the healthy leg.
“I think we’re on the verge of either getting him in there either this week or next week.”
But though the testing has been encouraging, at least in Bielema’s eyes, it’s still inherent for the staff to remember he hasn’t played for quite some time, that he is capable of adding depth to the position, but only if he remains healthy.
“We have to be human and realize he has not played football for two years,” Bielema said. “So I just know he’s chomping at the bit. He’s excited to get out there and it will be a nice element to that guard position when he does.”
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