Injuries haunt Wisconsin’s defensive line

first_imgMATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoHeading into last Saturday’s matchup with Minnesota, the last thing Wisconsin could afford was further losses to its depleted defensive line. Yet that’s exactly what it got, with starters Jason Chapman (left tackle) and Joe Monty (left end) both leaving the win over the Gophers with injuries.As a result, the workload has grown considerably for the team’s few linemen with viable game experience. Sophomore Kurt Ware played nearly the entire second half against Minnesota in place of Monty, while true freshman Matt Shaughnessy played every single snap at right end — a position he inherited following the loss of starter Jamal Cooper.”Matt Shaughnessy played every snap,” head coach Barry Alvarez said. “That’s a 225-pounder and he’s getting double-teamed. You know, [Minnesota tight end Matt Spaeth] is a, I don’t know, 270-pounder. We recruited him as a defensive tackle. The tackles are 320. He’s getting double-teamed by those and he played hard from the first snap to the last snap, chased guys down, unbelievable how he played.”The main options to give Ware and Shaughnessy some rest in this weekend’s homecoming game against Purdue are two relatively unknown commodities in sophomore Brandon Kelly and true freshman Travis Beckum. Both began their careers at linebacker, and while Kelly made the conversion over a year ago, Beckum only moved from sam linebacker to end about two weeks ago.”I think [defensive line coach John Palermo] feels that Beckum probably will help, is getting close to helping in certain situations,” Alvarez said.Palermo also used the tandem of redshirt freshmen Mike Newkirk and Gino Cruse to fill Chapman’s void. Cruse, at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, has flashed potential in his limited time this season, and will be counted on in the coming weeks even if Chapman returns to the lineup soon.”Gino played, if I’m not mistaken, 40-some plays last week,” Alvarez said. “So, yeah, Gino is going to have to play and get more snaps.”Chapman hurt his ankle, while Monty suffered what Alvarez described after the game as a possible severe knee injury. Alvarez had no further updates on the pair’s status Monday afternoon.”We’re going to have to be creative probably in some sense. We had three guys injured in that game … I don’t know how severe they are. Some of them we’ll get better answers today or tomorrow. But we were thin there to start with, and you lose three right away and then to have more injuries this past weekend … it’s hard. We just have to find answers. That’s our job, is to try to find an answer some place.”Change at corner?: Redshirt freshman Jack Ikegwuonu, who saw significant playing time against Minnesota, is now sitting atop the Badger depth chart at right cornerback according to the team’s weekly release.Senior Brett Bell, an honorable mention all-Big Ten choice last season by the conference’s coaches, formerly occupied the position. However, Alvarez was reluctant to say what the significance of the change truly is.”I don’t even look at that depth chart because I just know who’s going to play,” Alvarez said. “I know we’ll play four corners. But I saw Jack play, Jack played last week and I thought he did a good job. He wasn’t tested a lot — missed a tackle on a short route — but Jack’s a guy who’s progressed, has a lot of ability and I think should continue to get better and better as we go along.”Bell has endured his share of struggles this season after undergoing knee surgery following last year. And though he was fully cleared by doctors prior to the team’s fall camp, Bell has not been the same on the field.”I think [Bell’s] knee has been strong in that he’s had all the tests to indicate that it’s where it should be mechanically,” Alvarez said. “But I don’t know if anyone, unless you’ve gone through that type of surgery, knows how tough that is mentally to get over it. He had arthritis in his knee, which is very painful, I know that.”Still no word on Bernstein: Alvarez again had no further update on the status of standout fullback Matt Bernstein. The Scarsdale, N.Y., native has missed the last three games, with backups Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester filling in. The two are listed as co-starters on the depth chart, and split time pretty much evenly against Minnesota.”I have no idea when [Bernstein will] return,” Alvarez said. “I said when he was injured that it would be awhile. I check with him about daily, and he’s improving, but I haven’t had any indication that he’s getting closer.”One away: With seven receptions against Minnesota, senior wide receiver Brandon Williams is now tied with former Badger great Lee Evans for the school’s all-time catches record (175). For the season, Williams has 32 grabs for 492 yards and three scores.”He’s been huge to us and to this program,” quarterback John Stocco said. “He’s a guy who makes so many plays for us and I just love having him out there. He’s such a competitor and he’s got a lot of fire and it’s just great having a guy like that with us.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *