Stacey Revere/Getty Images
With Ryan Ryamczyk getting ready for the NFL draft, there is a big opening at left tackle for the Badgers.

Spring questions along the offensive line, Bronson Koenig shouldn’t sit, and D’Mitrik Trice is ready if called upon

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Today is Wednesday, Feb. 15, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.


Big hole at left tackle

We’re less than a month from Wisconsin opening spring practice in Madison, so in the days and weeks leading up to the big day we’re going to be tackling the most crucial questions the Badgers will face over those 15 practices.

Who will replace Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle?

David Edwards has been on a bit of a football odyssey and that apparently will continue when the Badgers hit the field on March 14. The redshirt sophomore played quarterback in high school, came to Wisconsin as a tight end, started eight games at right tackle in 2016 and now appears among the front-runners to replace All-American Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle.

Ryan Ramczyk, NFL Draft, Wisconsin, Football
Ryan Ramczyk (65) is off to the NFL and the Badgers need to find his replacement. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Edwards moved from tight end to tackle last summer and spent fall camp switching between right and left tackle. He was the No. 1 backup at both spots. But when the starter at right tackle, Jake Maxwell, was lost for the season to injury, Edwards was forced into action.

“When we needed to lean on him, after Jacob (Maxwell) went down, he really stepped up,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said earlier this month. “Went through some growing pains when he had some early playing time against Ohio State and Iowa, but he grew through them. He stepped up to the challenge. Proud of what he was able to do this year.”

Now, Rudolph is prepared to give Edwards a chance at filling the very big shoes of Ramczyk, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft in April.

“Some guys really struggle switching sides of the line,” said Rudolph, who also serves the offensive line coach. “He’s shown the ability (that he can do) that pretty easily. You love that, if he’s backing up a position, to be able to do that. You don’t always get lucky like that.”

If Edwards is able to make the move, it would leave competition at right tackle, especially with Maxwell missing the spring as he recovers from surgery. Rudolph said redshirt freshmen Patrick Kasl and Cole Van Lanen, along with redshirt sophomore David Moorman, can play the tackle spot and he’s looking forward to seeing them in the spring.

Sitting Koenig not the answer

Bronson Koenig obviously is hurt, and it’s clearly impacting his game. You don’t go from shooting nearly 40 percent for your career from beyond the arc to 22 percent without some underlying issue. Sure, he’s had poor streaks, such as his current 7-for-31 slide, but none have looked liked like this. None have seen him clang one off the side of the backboard like he did at Nebraska.

The senior didn’t practice on Tuesday as he nurses a calf injury suffered against Penn State on Jan. 24. It’s left many wondering if he should sit until he’s healthy, with some arguing that he’s hurting the team.

While that’s open to interpretation, unless Koenig is injuring himself more by playing or the medical staff holds him out, he should be on the floor if he and coach Greg Gard deem him worthy.

So many of us are strictly focused on March with college basketball. The NCAA Tournament has turned into the ultimate measuring stick for many fans and media. Make a run to the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight and all of a sudden it becomes a successful year in some circles. Regular season and conference tournament titles have become, at least to a vocal few, less important. So when they see Koenig struggling physically, the thought is to sit him and have him ready for the postseason.

But that’s not how players look at it. Wisconsin is 10-2 in Big Ten play, a game up in the loss column on Purdue and Maryland with six to go. That’s the Badgers’ focus — trying to win a second Big Ten title in three years. And they’re trying to beat Michigan on Thursday night in Ann Arbor. If Koenig is available, it seems like he would give them their best chance.

Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and the rest of the Badgers will care about Selection Sunday and/or playing in Milwaukee in the first and second rounds of the tournament when the time comes. For them, and Koenig, it’s about the now — and it should be.

Ready and willing

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03: D'Mitrik Trice #0 of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts after a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Kohl Center on December 3, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Freshman D’Mitrik Trice says he’s ready to take over if senior Bronson Koenig can’t play. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

If Koenig does miss time, his backup, freshman D’Mitrik Trice, is ready. He spent a majority of practice on Tuesday running the offense as the lead guard and is preparing mentally as if he’ll make his first career start.

“You never know with Bronson,” Trice said. “But I’m definitely preparing with that (starter’s) mindset.”

Trice says it’s clear Koenig is not the same player he was prior to the injury.

“(I) can tell his explosiveness isn’t really there, on his shot and things like that, which is hurting him,” Trice said.

Trice played extended minutes in the second half against Northwestern and had his best stretch of basketball in Big Ten play, scoring 11 points after managing just 12 in the previous five games. Whether Koenig plays or not, he won’t be at 100 percent and the Badgers will likely need something from Trice if they hope to avoid their second straight loss.

Catching up

  • Sean Keeler takes a look at the biggest offseason questions facing each of the Big Ten West teams as spring practice approaches.
  • Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge has been hired as Pittsburgh’s defensive line coach.
  • From Madison.com: The first goal has been the key to the Wisconsin’s hockey team’s success or failure in Big Ten play.
  • Former Wisconsin running back and 1993 Big Ten MVP Brent Moss took a plea deal in a Racine drug case on Tuesday.
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