Cooper taking injury in stride

Wisconsin sophomore defensive end a difficult talent to replace

MADISON — Jamal Cooper is a mellow guy. The University of Wisconsin defensive end is not the type to get too hyped up one way or the other about events, good or bad. That apparently is the case with the injury he suffered last Saturday night against North Carolina, when he is believed to have torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, costing him the rest of this sophomore season.

"He's upset that he's not playing anymore but he's taking it real well," sophomore defensive end Kurt Ware said. "We still joke around now and again but I would love to have back playing with him."

"You know what, Jamal's a funny kid," defensive line coach John Palermo said. "He doesn't really change one way or the other. He's not any different now than he was a week ago at this time.

"He kind of rolls with the punches. He knows he's got to have surgery and, you know, we're just going to have to move on from there."

In the past, Cooper has readily admitted that he does not get very excited for practice. But this week he spent time helping the Badgers' younger linemen, players who will need to step up now that UW is missing Cooper and defensive tackle Justin Ostrowski (knee). Ware said he recalled Cooper working on pass rush moves with redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mike Newkirk and true freshman defensive end Matt Shaughnessy.

Before the injury, Cooper was the Badgers' best defensive lineman. The 6-foot-4, 217-pounder had seven tackles, two for loss, and a sack.

"He (has) been a leader on the field," Palermo said. "He's a guy that plays balls out every time the ball is snapped for us. He's smart. He's physical for a guy that weighs 215 pounds. He's a football player is what he is. You just don't replace a kid like that."

Cooper was supposed to absorb part of the burden of replacing four seniors from the 2004 defensive line who were selected in the NFL Draft last spring. Even with those players around — ends Erasmus James and Jonathan Welsh, and tackles Jason Jefferson and Anttaj Hawthorne — Palermo has said that, snap-for-snap, Cooper was his most productive lineman last season.

"In my mind a year ago he was the second best end we had," Palermo said. The best being James, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year last season. "Jon was very good too, but Coop actually is a little bit more athletic. Not as fast as Jon, but you just don't replace a guy like him."

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