Fall Camp Guide: defensive line

An abundance of talent and depth makes the front four the strength of the defense

Starters returning Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, 6-3, 312, Sr., (30 career starts, 38 games played, 159 tackles, 31 for loss, 6 sacks) and Jason Jefferson, DT, 6-3, 308, Sr. (25-30-75-4-2); Jonathan Welsh, DE, 6-4, 231, Jr. (13-36-103-17.5-11).

More key returneesErasmus James, DE, 6-4, 261, Sr. (14-26-93-15-10) and Joe Monty, DE, 6-2, 257, So. (0-12-9-0-0); Kalvin Barrett, DT, 6-2, 319, Sr. (0-13-6-1-0).

Also in the mixJustin Ostrowski, DT, 6-5, 284, R-Fr., Jamal Cooper, DE, 6-4, 202, R-Fr., Mark Gorman, DL, 6-4, 276, So., Lyle Maiava, 6-2, 309, Jr., Brandon Kelly, DE, 6-4, 233, R-Fr.

Newcomers – freshmen Jason Chapman, DE, 6-4, 260; Nick Hayden, DT, 6-5, 275; and Gino Cruse, DT, 6-5, 305.

Key departuresDarius Jones, Nick Cochart.

Additional departures - Matt Gajda, Jason Clemens, Traison Lewis

Top marks in 2003 tackles - Hawthorne, 75; tackles for loss - Hawthorne, 20; sacks - Welsh, 8.

Reasons to be excited – Anttaj Hawthorne is a legitimate All-American candidate and he is surrounded by three solid seniors, all of whom have the potential to be all-conference players. Erasmus James, Wisconsin's 2002 starter at defensive end, is healthy again after a hip injury sidelined him all of last season. The unit is very deep, especially at tackle with senior Kalvin Barrett and redshirt freshman Justin Ostrowski. This unit was decimated by injuries last season but still held together because of yeoman's efforts from Hawthorne, Jason Jefferson and Jonathan Welsh.

Cause for trepidation – Few and far between. A lot would have to go wrong for this not to be a very strong line. With the nature of James' injury, there will be concern regarding his health until he faces game action.

Camp questions – Aside from James' health, there is the question of how much playing time sophomore Joe Monty will command. Monty played sparingly last season but the Badgers coaching staff was happy with his progress last spring and he will likely rotate with James and Welsh, at least to begin the season.

Will there be a Joe Thomas sighting? Badger head coach Barry Alvarez said that Thomas could get a look on defense, but he is UW's first-team left tackle.

How will Wisconsin use its depth? Barring injury, Wisconsin will have a plethora of options this season. One player to watch is Jamal Cooper, an undersized but athletic end who can get after the quarterback. Wisconsin could also use freshman reserve linebacker Mike Newkirk as a pass-rush specialist, if he does not redshirt.

Player on the rise – Hawthorne may be the best lineman to ever play at Wisconsin. He had incredible campaign last season, making it hard to believe that he might actually exceed that level of play this fall. He can and he will.

Player on the spot – Brandon Kelly. With Wisconsin's depth, there is not a need for him to play this season. But with two senior starters at defensive end, Kelly, who switched from mike linebacker to end during the summer, could position himself for a serious run at playing time in 2005.

Forecast – This unit will be dominant; potentially the best line in the Big Ten. How dominant, in the parlance, is up to them.

BadgerNation.com projected depth chart

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