Thomas taking to new position

Freshman line convert likely to start Wednesday

Prior to bowl preparations, Joe Thomas had spent his entire Badger career playing on the offensive line. With injuries depleting the team's depth at defensive end, though, Thomas flipped sides for the Music City Bowl and spent practice working against the linemen he had worked with all season.

"Well that's tough because there is always a little bit of hostility amongst the offensive linemen and defensive linemen because you are always going at each other and trash talking a little bit here and there," Thomas said jovially. "Going from one side to the other, you know, they are calling you the traitor. It is all in good fun but it is hard to go against guys that were once your closest teammates."

"The transition is so much different," defensive end Jonathan Welsh said. "You play offensive line you don't have to run around the field every play that you're in the game. On defensive line, it doesn't stop until the whistle is blown and your objective is to get to the ball. At least you get to hear your name called."

Thomas has taken his crash course at defensive end in stride. His lack of experience is obvious at times, but what has come through more in practices is Thomas' athleticism.

In between plays or drills Thomas is often in consultation with defensive line coach John Palermo or one of his teammates on the defensive line, seeking and receiving advice

"I don't know that he's necessarily taken the lead on it," Palermo said. "I think he's eager to learn. It's just that there's a lot of stuff being thrown at him right now."

"He's looking pretty good," Welsh said. "Just for a guy to figure it out that quick, I'm surprised and I'm proud of somebody that can help and give us depth, just with Darius being injured, that's positive and he's doing pretty good."

Thomas has continued to work with the No. 1 unit, though Wisconsin coaches have not officially named him a starter. Regardless of whether he starts the contest, his Music City Bowl performance will have a huge impact on where he lines up when spring practices roll around.

"That's something that he and coach (Barry) Alvarez are going to have to talk about," Palermo said.

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