Ready for a reprieve

Kaye tries to put difficult year behind him

As spring turned to summer and ushered in fall training camp, sophomore offensive lineman Danny Kaye was set to contend for a starting job at right tackle. But Kaye's competition with redshirt freshman Kraig Urbik never developed—Kaye suffered a knee injury early in camp and was thrust onto the scout team upon his return.

Kaye has spent the rest of the season trying to battle back—to stay healthy and work his way back up the depth chart. When asked about this season, his third in the University of Wisconsin football program, early this week, Kaye's frustration was palpable.

"I really was excited coming into the year and thought I had a chance to play and everything," he said. "To have that (knee injury) happen was kind of a setback but that's nobody's fault but mine. I've got to stay healthy. If I want to play, I've got to stay healthy. From here on out going into the bowl game and into next season, it's on me. I got to stay healthy.

"I know I can play. I just got to stay healthy. I got to keep practicing, keep getting better. I know I'm ready to play. I'm excited to play. I want to play. I think it's my time now. I'll be going into my fourth season next year. So, it's now or never. I'm just excited, kind of start over again and work to stay healthy and try to get on the field."

In an effort to get on the field next year, Kaye is switching focuses yet again. He has bounced around between both guard and tackle spots throughout his collegiate career, but has been primarily a right guard in bowl practices.

Kaye played guard during bowl workouts last winter too, then switched to right tackle in the spring to compete with Urbik. Kaye was one of UW's top reserves in 2004 and likely would have been high on the depth again this year if not for the knee injury.

"When that happened we had a season to get ready for," Kaye said. "(Offensive line) coach (Jim) Hueber didn't have time to wait for me to be healthy. So he put Kraig in there and Kraig's done a great job all season…

"I lost all the progress that I had made. I went back to the scout team for a while and that was real hard to deal with. Now, he's giving me another chance. And I'm playing hard now in the depth. So that's kind of exciting to finally get a clean slate and start over…

"I don't know. It took me a while just to really feel like I was at 100 percent again and really trust my legs and everything. I don't know what it is. I've got two bum knees. After a while, I want to say at it was at least a month into the season, before I really felt like I was comfortable on the field again. I don't know what else I can say. It is just so hard to deal with just to have that on my shoulder knowing that going into the season I had a chance to play. I was so excited. I thought I was going to—I was in that competition with Kraig. I had a chance to win the spot, but it just didn't work out. So pretty much now I've got to go back to the drawing board and start working over and just get excited for spring ball again."

In 2006 UW will have to replace seniors center Donovan Raiola and guards Matt Lawrence and Jason Palermo. If junior left tackle Joe Thomas chooses to leave early for the NFL, Kaye could end up competing with Eric Vanden Heuvel for that spot. As it stands, however, Kaye appears earmarked to compete with Andrew Weininger and Andy Kemp at the two guard spots. The competition might boil down to Kaye or classmate Weininger at right guard.

"It seems like kind of throughout our careers that Andrew and I have kind of always been—you know we are the best of friends off the field, but it seems like we've been pitted against each other on the field a lot," Kaye said. "It doesn't take away from our relationship but it's kind of always—you are always thinking about it. You know, I would hate to see if I win this spot that he kind of gets left behind. And that's got to be hard for him to take. And it would be hard for me to take either way around because we're both putting the work in everyday, we're both doing all we can do. And we both just want to play. There is not much more you can say. We're here to play football."

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