Sophomore guard Kyle Costigan got no advance notice of what was coming.
When the University of Wisconsin football team's practice started on Friday, he was told to jump in with the No. 1 offense at right guard. When practice ended, Costigan was still there.
Previously, fifth-year senior Robert Burge got the majority of snaps with the No. 1 offense, although Costigan earned more in the last few days.
"It went well," Costigan said. "I obviously had some mistakes and some stuff I wish had gone differently. Hopefully, if they continue to put me in there, I can improve every day."
The biggest mistake came near the end of a nice drive led by junior quarterback Danny O'Brien. The offense faced a third-and-6 at the opponent's 9-yard line on the ninth play.
Costigan made a mental mistake. He should have passed his guy down to right tackle Rob Havenstein and picked up defensive end Brendan Kelly, who was coming inside.
But Costigan stayed with his guy, giving Kelly a free path to the quarterback and a sack.
"If I'm in for 20 plays in a row and I get fatigued — when you're exhausted, you kind of rely on your fundamentals," Costigan said. "That's when my play kind of goes down. When I just rely on the natural instincts of the position, it's not exactly there yet. But it's improving."
Costigan was a defensive lineman until moving to guard in the spring. It's a credit to his quick development he's challenging to be the starter.
"First few days in the spring, I probably made a mistake on every play," he said. "Now, you can say it's only a couple, or three or four, a practice."
The 6-foot-4 Costigan runs well and is one of the strongest players on the team. He struggles to put on weight at times and dipped as low as 290 pounds during spring practices, but has been between 310 and 315 during camp.
He obviously has a bigger upside than Burge, a former walk-on who has not started. But can the coaches live with the occasional lapse, while Costigan keeps learning on the run?
Coaches were not available for interviews after practice, but signs point to Costigan having a decent chance of starting against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1.
Redshirt freshman Jonathan Coon has been out the last couple of days with an apparent injury, leaving sophomore Riki Kodanko as the backup right tackle. Kodanko has struggled, with redshirt freshman defensive end Jake Keefer running around him for a sack and pressure in a three-play sequence.
So Burge (6-7, 323) has been splitting time as the backup right tackle, a position that seems to better suit him, given his size and mobility questions.
Junior Zac Matthias, who is returning from a back injury, was the backup right guard. He was previously the backup left guard and could challenge Costigan as well.
Another option is true freshman Dan Voltz, who enrolled in January and is primarily the backup center, but is also being asked to learn both guard spots.
UW coach Bret Bielema has mentioned the possibility of Voltz playing center and Travis Frederick moving to guard, if needed.
Costigan watched as much film as he could in the summer of All-America guard Kevin Zeitler, the starter last season who was a first-round NFL pick.
Among the things Costigan said he picked up watching Zeitler were "his stance, his strike, how he pass sets, how he run blocks, all of that little stuff. It just really helps to watch someone who 100 percent knows what he's doing."
Costigan is tenacious enough that he will battle his way through any growing pains at the position. He also doesn't seem daunted by the prospect of starting a season opener, despite his limited background at the position. He also played in the offensive line in high school at Muskego.
"I don't think the pressure of me starting my first game would really get to me, personally," he said. "Maybe some people, it might. I don't think it would really be an issue."