Chapman returns to end

Redshirt freshman started at defensive tackle for half of season due to injuries

When the University of Wisconsin football team returned to practice last week, Jason Chapman was asked to revisit an old acquaintance: defensive end.

Chapman, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound redshirt freshman, entered this season as a defensive end. When Justin Ostrowski went down with a knee injury early in fall camp, however, Chapman slid inside to take his starting spot at defensive tackle.

"I envisioned him being an end going into the season and maybe in nickel defense moving him inside and playing him as pass rusher as a 3-technique (tackle)," defensive line coach John Palermo said.

Last week, Chapman said he had not practiced at end since fall camp, but he will likely start at end when the Badgers face Auburn in the Capital One Bowl Jan. 2.

"It's been a while since I practiced at defensive end," Chapman said. "It's been a long time."

Ostrowski played in four of UW's last five games, working in slowly after returning from his injury. He is now healthy enough to return to the starting lineup alongside tackle Nick Hayden. With tackles Mike Newkirk and Gino Cruse as reserves Palermo can move Chapman out to end, which should help the Badgers match up against Auburn's big offensive line.

"I think naturally (defensive end) is where (Chapman) belongs," Palermo said. "He's 280 pounds. He has good quickness for a big kid. With Ostrowski coming back and Hayden inside and then with Gino and Newk, those are four guys we can survive with inside. We just need a little lead in our pencil at 5-technique, getting ready for Auburn."

Against Auburn Chapman, Joe Monty and Kurt Ware will take the lion's share of snaps at the two defensive end spots, with Brandon Kelly and left offensive tackle Joe Thomas filling in from time-to-time.

Chapman played well as a first-team tackle, before injuring his ankle in week eight at Minnesota. He missed the following week's game against Purdue and then played about 15 snaps at Illinois. Just as his ankle was getting back to full strength, Chapman injured his elbow in practice and missed the Penn State game. He is finally nearing full strength.

"I'm pretty good but right now my elbow still, it bothers me a little bit," Chapman said. "But I can play through it."

Ostrowski is close to 100 percent after coming back from a serious knee injury.

"He's made tremendous strides and the big thing with him is now he's had that time to heal," Palermo said. "… Now he's fighting through, I think, some pain, but he's going to have to fight through that pain if he's going to be an effective football player for us, because there's no reason right now why he shouldn't be 100 percent as far as the effort and reps and things along those lines."

Finally having Ostrowski to pair with Hayden inside could do wonders for UW's beleaguered run defense. Having Chapman at end should help as well.

"He was a good tackle," Palermo said of Chapman. "He had some injuries that kind of slowed him down at times but I thought, at one point, real good. But he did get banged up a little bit and that's kind of opened the door for guys like Newkirk and Gino to play maybe a little bit more."

After playing the entire season at tackle, Chapman has to get used to playing end all over again.

"You can do certain things at defensive tackle and then you got to readjust to go back to D end, and think faster than you did at defensive tackle," Chapman said. "I'm going to have to get used to it real quick."

Palermo thinks Chapman will enjoy the change.

"It's like getting out of jail," Palermo said. "Really when it's all said and done end is so much less physical than having to play inside. So kids in the past that I've had that moved from tackle out to end it's like getting out of prison for two weeks. Because you don't get hit on every play like you do inside."

Palermo is retiring after this season, so the Badgers' next defensive line coach will have to decide where to play Chapman next year and beyond. But Palermo feels that end will be his most productive position.

"I hope he does for sure flourish in this game against Auburn because he matches up well with their big tackles," Palermo said. "I'm expecting him to play well."

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