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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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UW hopes quantity trumps quality

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Senior O\’Brien Schofield is the only returning starter on the defensive line for the Wisconsin football team.[/media-credit]

In departed defensive linemen Mike Newkirk, Matt Shaughnessy and Jason Chapman, the University of Wisconsin football team will have to replace a lot of quality production.

For the fall, the Badgers are hoping their new quantity can match last season’s quality.

“Getting seven or eight guys ready so we can get a rotation going throughout the course of the game,” UW defensive line coach Charles Partridge said. “That is something that we are working towards — getting a full group so we can rotate throughout all four quarters.”

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Newkirk and Shaughnessy proved to be two of the Badgers’ top playmakers combining for eight sacks and 17 tackles for a loss, while Chapman provided a consistent presence on the UW line. Stepping up to replace those three are J.J. Watt, Dan Moore, Pat Butrym and Jeff Stehle.

“You really can’t replace them,” Partridge said. “To say you are going to replace those three guys, you can’t. The Badger nation will miss those three guys. We just have to get our guys to improve every day, raise their level and play within their role.”

“You just hope that the next guys in line are hungry and eager and they can take coaching and jump in and do it,” UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren added. “You can’t sit down and worry and go, ‘Oh my God, we don’t have this guy anymore.’ I mean that is why we recruit and develop kids. You just hope that the guys coming up are ready to take their spots.”

One holdover starter, however, may prove to be the difference between an average line and a Big Ten-worthy line. Fifth-year senior O’Brien Schofield led the defensive line in sacks with five and came in third on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss. With his return, the new starters have at least one guy to look to for guidance.

“O’Brien Schofield,” Partridge said immediately when asked about a leader for the defensive line. “He is a veteran guy, a fifth-year senior. He is taking the leadership role with a lot of pride and (has) taken that responsibility.”

In particular, O’Brien is likely to see more of the double teams shown to Shaughnessy last season, as the Badgers leading returning pass rusher. This spring, the coaches have looked for others to step into that disruptive role.

“Right now, you have (Schofield) and J.J. Watt are doing a very nice job pass rushing,” Partridge said. “Pat Butrym has made very nice progress as well. Those are three guys who stand out.”

Helping the Badgers improve with each practice is the UW offensive line. Traditionally a strong spot for the team, this year’s offensive line is proving to be no different, challenging the new starters every time they take the field. According to Doeren, this will prove to be a strong asset come the fall.

“It helps tremendously,” Doeren said of practicing against UW’s offensive line. “Coach [Bob] Bostad does a great job, so they aren’t just big and physical, they are well-coached too. It helps a lot to face that every day.”

Making the transition from bench player to starter a little bit easier, the defensive playbook has remained the same and even slimmed down in some situations. Understanding their roles will make the new group more consistent — something constantly stressed by the coaching staff.

“Not so much is different with the scheme,” Partridge said. “We are really still based out of a 4-3 defense. The biggest thing is getting eight guys up front who can play. We can keep those guys at manageable numbers, so they are playing as well in the fourth quarter as they were in the first.”

“It’s not so much running anything differently, but running less [formations] better,” Doeren added.

While every player will have their ups and downs, Doeren said for the most part he has liked the consistency shown in spring.

“I don’t really want to see a guy be great one day and bad for three,” Doeren said. “You know, you want to see a consistent performer.”

Putting all this to the test will be the big spring scrimmage coming up Saturday. Though Doerern warned not to make too much of one scrimmage, he said there were certain things he wanted to see from the line.

“You want to limit big plays obviously,” Doeren said. “You want to see few missed tackles, capitalize on opportunities and you want to see no penalties. … It is about correcting mistakes.”

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