Notebook: Beckum will play DE

Badgers having "tryout time" on depleted defensive line; could call on Joe Thomas as well

MADISON—True freshman Travis Beckum is listed as the University of Wisconsin football team's second-string strongside linebacker, but he has spent this week splitting his practice reps between linebacker and defensive end.

With UW's depth depleted on the defensive line due to injuries to starting end Jamal Cooper and tackle Justin Ostrowski, the Badgers are looking for answers. Beckum's strength and athleticism could translate into valuable pass rushing ability.

"Well, we're going to try to use him (at end)," Palermo said. "We need another pass rusher with Jamal Cooper out. And it's pretty much tryout time right now, trying to find somebody to do that. We're trying to get somebody that can go in the game and give us some help in certain down and distances and Travis Beckum certainly is a guy that might be able to do that."

Though he opened his college career as a linebacker, Beckum (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) was rated as Scout.com's No. 1 defensive end prospect in the country last year because of a feeling that his skill set translated best to the end position.

This week Beckum is receiving a crash course in the particulars of playing the position at the college level.

"The biggest thing in two days has been just getting him in the right stance, having been a linebacker all his life and not playing down," Palermo said. "And then the other thing I think is the understanding of leverages when you've got your hand on the ground versus standing up. The understanding that you have to contain versus just run in there like a wild horse and do what you want to do.

"And probably the biggest concern or biggest understanding is if you are running a blitz and you have certain responsibilities on a running back and you run by him it's a touchdown… So there's a lot of different things that concern me about that."

Who wants to play defensive line?

The Badgers' injury situation has opened the door for other players, in addition to Beckum, to potentially play a spot role.

UW's primary rotation will consist of ends Joe Monty, Matt Shaughnessy and Kurt Ware, and tackles Nick Hayden, Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk.

"And we could get a little something out of (redshirt freshman defensive tackle) Gino (Cruse)," Palermo said, "but as far as, you know, guys that I think can go in and hold their own those would be the six guys."

In addition to Cruse and Beckum, defensive end Brandon Kelly, who has received spot work the past three games, could play a role. Also, Palermo said sophomore walk-on defensive end Adam Purcell could help a little as a pass rusher, and, "maybe we'll put Joe Thomas in there if we have to."

Two-way Thomas?

Joe Thomas is the Badgers' starting left offensive tackle—the team's best offensive lineman. Last week, UW was prepared to use him at defensive end on the goal line defense due to Ware's absence. Having played the position in the Music City Bowl two years ago, Thomas could step in if needed. He has said that he would welcome the opportunity to play defense again, in addition to his offensive duties.

"It might be for a play here or there in an emergency," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "That would be the only way. But, you know, there's a possibility."

Asked if he would like to see the guy protecting his blindside play defense, quarterback John Stocco laughed good naturedly.

"I don't like it too much," he said. "I think he's good where he is on the O line. Joe's just a tremendous athlete and great competitor. He's going to do anything to help this team. I think that just kind of speaks volumes about the kind of guy he is and what he'll do for us. I like having him on the O line."

"I'd welcome it," defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. "We get help however we can."


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