Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW suffers long ‘line’ of injuries

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It has not been an easy spring for the Wisconsin defensive
line unit. So far, eight defensive linemen have missed time.

Starters Jason Chapman (torn ACL), Mike Newkirk (shoulder)
and Kirk DeCremer (back) all have had surgery and are out for the remainder of
spring practices. Reserves Brandon Hoey (back), Dan Cascone (shoulder), Ricky
Garner (hamstring), Dan Moore (knee) and Patrick Butrym (shoulder) have all
missed time this spring as well, making it difficult for head coach Bret
Bielema to even field a defensive line in practice.


“It’s a physical sport, and it’s part of the
game,” Newkirk said. “It’s the price you pay to play. It’s something
you have to take with a grain of salt and make sure you do whatever you can to
get back on the field and find a way to make it better.”

Because the line has been so depleted from injuries, Bielema
has been forced to convert some players to keep the depth on the defensive

“Bottom line, some of our threes are now ones,”
Bielema said. “If you look at our second defensive line, we’ve got two
former linebackers and an [offensive] lineman that we converted two days

And while it has been hard seeing defensive linemen dropping
like flies this spring, the injuries have allowed some of the less experienced
players like Butrym, Jeff Stehle and O’Brien Schofield more time play on the
No. 1 line.

“If you’re going to try and take a positive out of a
negative, it is the more guys that we can give reps to, the better they are
going to be,” Bielema said.

“It’s kind of hurt us, but it gives a lot of guys a lot
of opportunities to step up and show that they can play here,” Schofield
said “We are getting a lot more reps. It’s tiring, but it’s going to help
us in the end getting reps and getting to be consistent in what we do.”

Schofield has used added playing time this spring to try to
improve his game overall so he can show the coaches he deserves to be on the
field come fall.

“I’m looking to be a better football player and a
better student of the game and be consistent,” Schofield said. “Since
I’ve been here, that’s what has kept me off the field: being consistent. I’ve
shown hot flashes, but right now I just want to show the coaches that they can
count on me to do it every time. I would like to show that I can play

For Newkirk, sitting out this spring has not been easy on
him, and he says he feels “caged up” not being able to get out there
and play. However, Newkirk has remained active with the defensive line all
spring, giving the younger players pointers in an effort to help them improve.

“I (help them) with little things, like their
fundamentals, like their first step,” Newkirk said. “When we watched
film, they can correct it when they see themselves. But when we are out on the
field, sometimes we can sit back and watch since we are not practicing. We’ve
been watching the tackles, trying to help them out a little bit with hand
placement, first step, just giving them any pointers that we can from our
experience playing.”

Another positive out of all the injuries is that when all
the players come back in the fall, the line will be one of the most experienced
groups on the team. Chapman, Newkirk and Matt Shaughnessy will all be senior
starters, and it is that experience that Shaughnessy believes will help this
unit be successful this year.

“We know each other so well, we can play games with
other people,” Shaughnessy said. “We know what someone else is going
to do because we’ve played with them for so long, and we know what they can and
can’t do.”

It always helps when you got that chemistry and can play
together real well,” Newkirk added.

The experience younger players are gaining this spring will
also help the Badger defense return to form after a down year in 2007.

“I feel a lot times you won’t always live up to
people’s expectations,” Schofield said about the defense’s performance
last year. “I feel that as a defense we kind of fed into the hype that
everybody was saying, but we weren’t getting the work done. Now we know it’s
not just going to happen. We have to actually work hard every day, work hard in
drills, stay focused and that it will help us out in the end.”

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