September 14, 2011

Groy settling back in as reserve

MADISON - Ryan Groy, UW's versatile sixth offensive lineman, said his debut at left guard last week against Oregon State went well.

Head coach Bret Bielema praised the sophomore utility man for his play and offensive line coach Bob Bostad said he did a good job.

So, even though Travis Frederick is back from a MCL sprain to his left knee, it's still Groy's job to lose, right?

Well, maybe not.

"We'll just see how it goes," Bostad said Tuesday night. "Travis is coming off a deal and I thought he did a nice job (Tuesday) as far as bouncing back for not being in the fray for a week. So we'll see.

"Battle or no battle, it's really good to have guys that can play."

Groy, who Bostad says can play anywhere on the offensive line, filled in for the injured Frederick a week ago against Oregon State. Before that, he was the backup to several players on the offensive line.

According to the sophomore, he's back in that reserve role as the Badger prepare to play Northern Illinois this weekend at Chicago's Soldier Field. No matter how much he'd like to remain in the starting lineup, Groy understands his worth.

"I wish I could hold onto that spot," Groy said. "It is what it is and Travis is starting. I'm just kind of backing up the inside three and doing my thing. I'm just going to watch as much film as I can and prepare like I did last week."

Using Bill Nagy, UW's reserve lineman from a season ago that is now starting with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, as an example, Groy understands there is still value in being the backup to the starters on the offensive line.

He also knows injuries are as much a part of the game as anything else so he knows the preparation that has put him in position to have success both this year and last will need to remain consistent.

"I'm just going to prepare like I'm starting," Groy said. "For me, the thing I need to focus on every week is center. That's the thing that's going to key me in for both guards. Then, it will be going from there and working different positions in practice."

Frederick, the player set to resume his duty as the starting left guard, thinks that's a solid approach for Groy.

"If you know what the center is going to call you can make the adjustments a little bit faster," Frederick said. "If you're sitting at guard and you see something the center doesn't seen you can help out there.

"To learn that position is really invaluable and it really helps you to understand the bigger picture."

That's the same bigger picture Groy is wrapping his mind around. He knows he may not be the starter each and every game, at least not yet, but he knows his number will be called. He's shown he has plenty of ability and because of that, he's making it tough for the coaches to keep him off the field.

There's just nowhere to put him on an offensive line that is very, very good.

"I think it shows that Ryan has some great attributes," Bostad said. "He went out on the field Saturday, we pulled him and he cut the linebacker and we went around for a nice big run. That's when you want to see that athleticism really show up, which it did. Great. That was a great job.

"I've coached guys that don't have anywhere near that athletic ability, but if they're going to be controlling factors in the box that's where we want to start from."

Sometimes starting on the offensive line isn't exactly the starting point.

Tom Lea can be reached at thomasmlea@gmail.com. You can follow him on twitter @tomlea09

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