News and notes: Erasmus James returned after a hip injury sidelined him all of last season…Joe Monty solidified himself as essentially a third first-team defensive end…defensive tackle Nick Hayden will not redshirt after earning a role in the Badgers' defensive tackle rotation. He is the No. 5 tackle heading into the opener but could demand more playing time as the season progresses… Mark Gorman and Jamal Cooper earned second-team spots at defensive end, with Brandon Kelly also possibly in the mix…Mike Newkirk moved back to defensive end from linebacker during camp and appears destined for a redshirt.
Fall MVP:James. He looked like he did not miss a beat after missing all of last season with a hip injury that befuddled doctors and treatment for nearly a year. James was Wisconsin's most explosive lineman on either side of the ball during fall camp. His initial burst is startling and he has the strength to fight through blocks and the speed to turn the corner in a hurry. With two other very capable defensive ends set to get a lot of playing time in the base defense, James should have no trouble staying fresh and making a big impact for the Badgers.
Player on the rise: Monty. After playing sparingly last season he held his own in fall camp. Monty will not be an imposing presence for opposing offensive linemen, but he will quietly go about his business, reading the proper keys and consistently making plays. He is strong enough to hold the point.
Questions answered: James' health was emphatically verified. The Badgers depth is solid at end with Monty improving, Jamal Cooper poised to serve as a designated pass rusher on sure throwing downs, and Mark Gorman looking like a capable reserve. The depth is not quite as strong at tackle, but is still solid. Starters Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson are special players. A minor injury kept Kalvin Barrett from having a full camp to work with but he is capable. Justin Ostrowski looks the part and holds promise but needs to make more plays. Hayden may be the playmaker of the reserve trio at tackle.
Questions remain: How does the playing time breakdown between James, Welsh and Monty? All three deserve to be regulars. Expect James and Welsh to play the bulk of the snaps, with Monty rotating in up to 40 plays a game. All three may be on the field along with Cooper when the Badgers go to the nickel.
How will Cooper hold up and how productive can he be as a designated pass rusher? A team can never have too many pass rushers and Cooper's speed could be very difficult for opposing offensive tackles to deal with. Cooper's 205-pound frame, however, limits how much the Badgers can use him.
Final note: With the possible exception of Iowa, the Badgers' defensive line may be the best in the Big Ten. All four starters are good enough to earn all-conference honors, given the right circumstances, and Monty could start for most teams.
Fall camp wrap, defensive line
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