Keeping an open mind

Chapman prepared for future at defensive tackle or defensive end

MADISON — A year ago Jason Chapman spent his first spring practice season with the University of Wisconsin football team bouncing from defensive tackle to defensive end — and shining at each position.

When fall training camp opened, the then-redshirt freshman was the Badgers' fifth lineman. Listed as an end, the plan was to have Chapman play outside on run downs then shift to tackle on passing downs.

The Badgers' extraordinary injury woes, however, scuttled that notion in a hurry. Just three practices into the 2005 season, top defensive tackle Justin Ostrowski went down with a major knee injury.

Suddenly, Chapman was a defensive tackle through and through. He would not so much as take a snap at defensive end in practice again until bowl preparations began in December.

Chapman started UW's first seven games at defensive tackle before ankle and elbow injuries forced him into a reserve role. He came back healthy for the Capital One Bowl and started at defensive end. All told, in 11 games Chapman had 27 tackles, one tackle for loss and a team-high six quarterback hurries.

Following the bowl game it appeared that Chapman would return to end long-term, but he has played tackle with the first team throughout this spring, save for stints at end in goal-line and short-yardage situations. With Chapman and Nick Hayden at tackle, Ostrowski has worked with the second team.

Is Chapman comfortable at tackle, where most of his collegiate experience has taken place?

"There's really no choice of being comfortable," Chapman said with a good-natured smile. "It's like a job…

"Towards the end of the season when I played against Auburn at D end, I felt good about it, but the thing is when I play D tackle it's more double teams…

"Staying comfortable? It's part of my job, so I guess I'm comfortable."

During winter workouts, Chapman was not sure if he would end up at tackle or end, though if expected anything, it was to stay at tackle.

"I really didn't come in looking to be switched," Chapman said. "I just came in expecting just to finish off where I started last year…

"In my mind I was thinking maybe I should lose weight (to play end) or gain weight (to play tackle), but then I wasn't sure, so I was in between. So I would be like ‘It doesn't matter.' If I go in, they put me somewhere, I got to play it."

Right now, "somewhere" is defensive tackle — and Chapman's weight has remained fairly steady.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 283 pounds, Chapman is big enough to play tackle. Whether at end or tackle, however, athleticism is Chapman's greatest strength. Prior to spring practices, Chapman covered 40 yards in 4.9 seconds, broad jumped 9-foot-3 and completed the pro agility run in 4.5 seconds. Head coach Bret Bielema has said that Chapman probably has the quickest first step he has ever seen from a defensive lineman.

Chapman could still find himself at tackle, end or both in the fall.

"Right now, I'm going between both of them because (the coaches) are still putting in my mind that sometimes I might play end… which I do in goal-line situations."

At this Chapman chuckled.

"I got to maintain," he said.

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