Fall camp wrap: Defensive line

Front four is position of strength on young defense

Depth chart

News and Notes: When camp opened, the starting line was left end Joe Monty, left tackle Justin Ostrowski, right tackle Nick Hayden and right end Jamal Cooper. But on the third day of practice, Ostrowski went down with a knee injury and he is out indefinitely… Ostrowski's injury forced the Badgers to juggle the lineup, with second-team defensive end Jason Chapman moving into the starting lineup at left tackle. Chapman's move opened the door for true freshman Matt Shaughnessy on the second-team at defensive end, and Shaughnessy responded in a huge way, establishing himself as a legitimate Big Ten pass rusher, the Badgers' best in this camp… Along with Shaughnessy, the second-team defensive line is end Kurt Ware and tackles Mike Newkirk, a converted end, and Gino Cruse. End Brandon Kelly will likely be a spot player in reserve, as will tackle Mark Gorman, once recovers from the broken foot that kept him out of all of camp… Ware, who also plays tackle in nickel situations, is the No. 5 lineman, with Shaughnessy and Newkirk the next two reserves in the cue.

Fall MVP: Nick Hayden. Ostrowski was the Badgers' best tackle last spring and before he got hurt this fall. With his partner inside out of the lineup, Hayden stepped up and was the Badgers' best all-around defensive lineman during camp. After playing in spot duty as a true freshman last year, Hayden has improved in leaps and bounds and should be a disruptive force at defensive tackle. He is very strong for a sophomore and is a quick athlete for a 300-pounder. Hayden has loads of potential and he will begin to realize it this year.

Player on the rise: Matt Shaughnessy. All true freshmen come in as unknown commodities. Few play at a level that commands as much attention as Shaughnessy did. He is a 6-foot-6, 233-pound defensive end who displayed solid strength, an exceptional burst off the edge, and good instincts. He will likely be a part of the rotation at end on passing downs, along with Cooper, Ware and Monty. Once Shaughnessy has some experience under his belt and more knowledge of the position, look out.

Questions answered: Who starts opposite Cooper at end? Prior to camp, the starting left defensive end spot was up in the air, but Joe Monty opened practice there and never relinquished it. Monty had a good camp. He is about as steady a player as you will find and he showed more ability to get into the backfield and make plays. He is not the most athletic lineman around, but he makes up for it with consistent effort and good technique.

How will Mike Newkirk adjust to playing defensive tackle? Newkirk adjusted pretty well to his move to defensive tackle. He did not make a lot of plays, but he looked fairly comfortable in that role and can be a productive player in a rotation.

Will any true freshmen emerge? In the quest for eight to 10 linemen for the rotation, Shaughnessy was the one true freshman who established himself as a definite contributor. Tackle Jeff Stehle was pressing for playing time before a shoulder injury limited his practice time. He came back for the last week of camp, but at that point looked labeled for a redshirt. Stehle, though, is a good athlete at tackle with enough strength to hold his own inside.

Questions remain: For how long will Ostrowski be out? The Badgers have enough depth to put a productive line on the field even without their best defensive tackle. But the longer Ostrowski is out, the more it will wear on UW's depth up front. Put Ostrowski back in the mix, and suddenly UW's line looks like one of the elite in the Big Ten yet again. Jason Chapman has played well at tackle and would be a great top reserve at end and tackle if Ostrowski were still in the starting lineup.

How will the depth shake out when the games begin? Hayden figures to be on the field a ton as the anchor on the inside. Jamal Cooper is still the team's best lineman, even if he did not have as good of a camp as Hayden, or did not make as many plays in camp as Shaughnessy or Monty. Cooper has the ability to post 7-9 sacks in his first year as a starter and will be a key cog on the front line. However, expect Kurt Ware to spell him at times on running downs… Monty and Chapman will take the bulk of the reps at their spots, but Ware figures to rotate in at both left end and left tackle as well. Shaughnessy should be a significant factor as a designated pass rusher and there is a role for Newkirk and, in spots, Cruse and Brandon Kelly… Cruse could prove to be a big difference maker as far as depth is concerned. He made good progress this fall and showed flashes of promise. Cruse is the Badgers' biggest defensive tackle and is athletic enough to be a playmaker. If he can prove to be a reliable reserve, it will allow UW to give Hayden more rest and give the Badgers another run stuffer on the inside.

UW certainly has flexibility. Wanting to get the best pass rushers they can on the field, the Badgers could put Cooper and Shaughnessy at end and Ware and Hayden or Monty at tackle. For more run stuffing, Ware and Monty can play end with Hayden and Chapman at tackle.

Final thoughts: Despite losing four very talented seniors, this is the strength of the Badgers' defense. UW has seven reliable linemen, even without Ostrowski around, and Cruse could make it eight. The core of the line — Cooper, Monty, Hayden, Chapman and Ware — are very capable. And with a potentially dynamic pass rusher to add to the mix in Shaughnessy the Badgers' line will still be in the upper echelon of the Big Ten.


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