MADISON - With 27 players either entering camp injured or getting injured throughout the course of spring football, some positions were lucky to escape unscathed.
The Wisconsin defensive line was not one of those positions.
With Dan Cascone, Jason Chapman, Kirk DeCremer and Brandon Hoey already sitting out spring practices with various injuries, five players miss time due to injuries and more than a couple were just the occasional bumps and bruises.
Senior tackle Mike Newkirk aggravated a nagging shoulder injury in the first week of practice and had a successful shoulder surgery in mid-March to correct the problem.
Junior college recruit Dan Moore was injured when now-departed center Brad Thorson was a little too physical with Moore during a Badger Drill and caused Moore's to seriously injure his knee. X-rays revealed no extensive damage and his status for the 2008 season is still in question, although Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema expects Moore to be ready for the opener.
But the most devastating injury came to senior Matt Shaughnessy two days before the spring game. In a one-on-one pass protection drill, Shaughnessy broke his fibula in his right leg, had successful surgery to insert a pin to stabilize the break and should be ready by the opener.
With the majority of Wisconsin's projected starters and half of their backups on the shelf, there were plenty of repetitions available to Wisconsin's underclassmen.
Nzegwu struggled at times with his assignments and what was happening on the offense, but he quickly progressed as his reps increased. Adding 15 pounds since he came to Wisconsin, Nzegwu was able to hold his own and was fourth on the team in ‘good plays,' pass rushing, deflections, making reads, etc.
Grimes got elevated to the first-team defense when Newkirk got injured and split time with Butrym later on. Bielema describes Grimes as a work in progress but added that Grimes has shown the potential that it takes to play on the line.
But none of the backups impressed more than Butrym, who was described as a typical, blue-collared worker that possess speed, toughness and versatility. Although a little undersized, Butrym made plenty of solid plays throughout spring, gaining penetration into the backfield, solid in pursuing running backs and lengthy in batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.
With Chapman out, junior Jeff Stehle saw considerable reps at right tackle and split time with Butrym on the first team. Weighing in at a shade under 300 pounds, Stehle was a tough tackle to block for the offensive lines, causing many pileups at the line of scrimmage and forcing running backs to look elsewhere for running space.
While Butrym and Stehle raised their stock, it was hard to find anyone more determined than junior O'Brien Schofield. After getting his first start in the Outback Bowl, Schofield said that the bowl experience motivated him throughout the spring and it showed. Schofield was third on the team in ‘good plays' and constantly was causing pressure on the offense. Even after Schofield fractured a bone in his right wrist, he missed only two days and had hand secured in a club to allow him to play. After coming back, he never missed a beat and was just as active on the line as he was before.
Although injuries wrecked havoc on the defensive line, the silver lining was that Schofield, Nzegwu, Stehle and Butrym all have shown the coaches that they are worthy of playing time in the fall.
Player of Camp: O'Brien Schofield
Projected Starters: O'Brien Schofield, Mike Newkirk, Jason Chapman and Matt Shaughnessy