Newkirk adapting to new position

Redshirt freshman is playing his third position in a year, but is in the depth this season

In need of a defensive tackle, University of Wisconsin defensive line coach John Palermo tabbed redshirt freshman Mike Newkirk for a position change heading into fall training camp this year.

A year ago, Newkirk weighed about 225 pounds and opened his Badger career as a middle linebacker. Wednesday he weighed in at 256 excited to start his second fall training camp at his third position.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Newkirk said. "It's only one shift down.

"Playing the 5 (technique) is the same as playing the 3 (defensive tackle) so hopefully they can expect big things from me in there. We'll see how it goes; hopefully have a good camp."

Only three practices in, Newkirk appears to be getting the hang of things at defensive tackle. He spent just a little over two weeks at linebacker last year, before switching to his more natural defensive end position, where he played with the scout team throughout last season. He was a third-team defensive end in the spring, but at tackle he is the Badgers' No. 7 lineman — labeling him for significant playing time.

"It's always exciting to come in and compete," Newkirk said. "Competition brings out the best in people; weed out who the players are and who aren't.

"We train all summer long and it really gets you looking forward to showing off how hard you worked. It's very exciting. It's a little nerve wracking too. You are always a little bit nervous because you are competing for a position and… (to see) who is going to play on Saturday."

Newkirk certainly worked hard to get his weight up in the offseason without sacrificing his athletic ability.

"I feel pretty decent at the weight I'm at," he said. "It's just an example and a representation of what can happen when you've got guys like coach Dett [strength and conditioning coach John Dettmann] and coach Herb [assistant strength coach Ben Herbert] and the strength and conditioning staff here and also all the facilities that we have at our leisure."

Herbert actually went through a similar series of changes while a letterwinner at Wisconsin from 1998-2001. Herbert played inside linebacker and then defensive end before switching to tackle as a 250-pound senior.

Said Newkirk: "He was talking about his senior year he got moved down to tackle and then when he went back out to end it was a lot easier for him because on the inside you are just getting double teamed… Then you go back out on the edge and there's just one guy out there. And one guy just ain't going to do it."

Newkirk could still line up at end this fall in nickel and dime sets, he said. While he has played exclusively right defensive tackle in scrimmage sets this fall, he is learning to also play left defensive tackle, allowing him to fill in anywhere on the line if necessary.

But Newkirk is anxious to get in the trenches as a defensive tackle.

"[Herbert] said it's great. He said it's like a fist fight in a phone booth," Newkirk said. "That's right up my alley with the wrestling, so I think I'll really like it down there."

Newkirk was a state champion heavyweight wrestler at Ladysmith (Wis.) High School.

"I think just in general wrestling helps any football player — the toughness and the mentality and things like that," Newkirk said. "Wrestling has been one of my greatest assets as far as on the field. As far as for my football career, I couldn't have found a better complementary sport that that. I'm pretty happy about that."

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