News and notes – Potential starters Erasmus James and Darius Jones sat out spring practices while recovering from serious injuries…Jones is expected to be ready for fall camp after injuring his knee in Wisconsin's final regular season game of 2003…James' future remains questionable…Joe Monty joined Jonathan Welsh as a first-team defensive end for spring workouts…After fluxing between tackle and end last season, Mark Gorman played solely at defensive end and was joined on the second team by Jamal Cooper.
Spring MVP – Jonathan Welsh. At a position hampered by injuries, Welsh continues to be a consistent force. He followed a very good 2003 season with a solid spring. Welsh made few highlight reel plays but was exceptionally consistent. His run defense improved and he continued to provide an adequate pass rush with his quickness off the edge. Welsh had two sacks in the spring game.
Springing ahead – Jamal Cooper continues to develop into a fearsome pass rusher. He essentially employed one pass-rush technique—pure speed—but it was effective more often than not. Cooper, though, checked into spring only a shade over 200 pounds and struggled to hold the point against the run. It looks more and more like he will be a designated pass rusher this fall, potentially taking over Alex Lewis' role in nickel and dime sets.
Joe Monty is clearly the team's No. 2 healthy defensive end. He was sturdy but unexceptional this spring after playing sparingly in 2003. Monty is not a pure pass rusher and does not have ideal size, but he works extremely hard and is very fundamentally sound.
Pressing questions – No position, not even linebacker, contains more potentialities than defensive end. If James and Jones return to full health this could be among the best group of ends in the Big Ten. It is anyone's guess, though, whether James will ever play again. If he does play, it is even more uncertain how effective he will be. Jones should be ready but with a knee injury the question again arises whether he will be able to approach his previous performance level.
The injury concerns create serious questions for the team's depth. Welsh is the only truly experienced, healthy end on the roster. If the worst-case scenario occurs and neither James nor Jones returns effectively, Wisconsin will be hard pressed not to overwork Welsh. Monty, Cooper and Gorman all had solid springs but they each would ideally be role players in an end corps that would, in a best-case scenario, boast three talented, healthy seniors.
Another possibility at end is Justin Ostrowski, who had a fine spring at defensive tackle but played end during one practice when Monty was absent.