Urbik back in the mix

After suffering an early spring injury, redshirt freshman right tackle rejoined competition

In the midst of a competition for what could be a four-year tenure in the starting lineup, the last thing a budding athlete wants to deal with is an injury.

But that is exactly where redshirt freshman Kraig Urbik stood March 14, the second day of full pads in the University of Wisconsin's spring practice season. After rotating at right tackle with sophomore Danny Kaye through the first three practices, Urbik injured his ankle early in practice No. 4, and had to watch as Kaye took a boatload of reps over the succeeding practices.

Urbik did not return to practice for nearly a month, but, due to the Badgers' two-week hiatus for spring break, he only missed five practices, including the day he was injured. Still, those were five valuable days in the life of a developing offensive tackle.

The 6-foot-4, 316-pound Urbik, though, took the situation in stride. Rather than focus on his own misfortune, he looked at it as a great opportunity for Kaye.

"I really wanted to be in there but it gave Danny a chance to get in there and get a bunch of reps and that's only going to make him better," Urbik said.

Urbik and Kaye faced a three-day endurance test this weekend. With starting left tackle Joe Thomas competing with the Badger men's track team, Kaye spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday's workouts as the first-team left tackle, while Urbik took all of the first-team reps at right tackle. The duo rotated on the second team at right tackle, with Urbik taking slightly more reps.

It was a convenient, if grueling, situation for Urbik, who needed the work to get back into the swing of things.

"It helps out a lot," he said. "It just gave (me) more reps and it just gives me more conditioning and gets me so I can learn every play a lot better."

As Kaye and Urbik were testing their fortitude, however, the Badgers were rolling 5-6 defensive ends with the first and second teams. By the end of practice Sunday the visibly drained tackles looked like they were slogging through mud.

Earlier this spring UW offensive line coach Jim Hueber said he wanted to get Kaye and Urbik as many reps as possible to see if they could handle the right tackle position. Each has shown promise and it looks like this competition is not going away any time soon; expect Kaye, a 6-foot-8, 319-pound athlete from New Berlin (Wis.) Eisenhower, and Urbik, who hails from Hudson, Wis., to jostle back and forth on the right tackle depth from now until late in fall camp. Considering that they are replacing a pair of seniors — Mike Lorenz and Morgan Davis — who rotated last season, the Kaye/Urbik competition could stretch further still.

"It feels great," Urbik said. "Me and Danny, we're both young so we're both pushing each other. Just to think that there is a possibility of starting for four years is just mind-boggling, so I'm just trying to get my act together and trying to learn all the stuff right now."

Urbik feels that regardless of who wins the starting job, the depth at the position will be solid.

"I think we're both pretty good players," he said.

During bowl practices last winter, with the departure of four of UW's top six offensive linemen on the horizon, Urbik played every position but center. During fall camp and on the scout team last season he served primarily as a left tackle or right guard. Kaye, meanwhile, moved from tackle to guard during bowl practices, but when spring opened he and Urbik had each set up shop at right tackle.

For Urbik, the chance to start so early in his career has come as a pleasant surprise.

"I didn't really look at who was leaving or who was staying," he said. "I just came here just because I love the school and I love the program. Now that two right tackles are gone, it's just me and Danny. I think it's great. I didn't think it would happen this early."

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