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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Defensive line

The second-team defense had a strong game against the first-team offense Saturday despite giving up a pair of touchdowns.

Football: Spring Game showcases impressive defensive corps

Most of the headlines from Saturday’s spring game will go to redshirt freshman running back Melvin Gordon, but a Wisconsin defense without redshirt junior linebacker Chris Borland and redshirt senior linebacker Mike Taylor, was equally impressive.

The Badgers’ number-one defense gave up just four first downs in eight possessions to the number-two offense quarterbacked by redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan. The defensive line was especially dominant, led by redshirt senior lineman Brendan Kelly and junior lineman Beau Allen.

Kelly said he has been impressed with Allen’s improved ability to penetrate into the backfield, pointing to his size and strength as clear contributors.

“Beau Allen has a presence about him, as you can probably see—he’s one of the bigger kids,” Kelly said. “You look at that dude’s lower body, it’s the size of my whole body. One of his calves is like my thigh.”

While Wisconsin’s number-two defense gave up two touchdowns to the number-one offense, there were certainly some bright spots: Namely, the performance of redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Keefer. Whether it was stopping ball carriers in the backfield or holding them to short gains, the Woodville, Wis., native was in on a number of plays Saturday.

“It’s just sticking to everything we’ve been coached throughout the spring,” Keefer said. “Big thing playing linebacker is if you see a hole, you got to hit it.”

Head coach Bret Bielema also offered an easy explanation for Keefer’s success.

“He runs, he hits,” Bielema said. “He goes harder than most people go and has an opportunity to make more plays.”

Kelly was not surprised by Keefer’s play, noting the redshirt freshman has the work ethic and desire necessary to be a young contributor to Wisconsin’s defense.

“We heard about that kid in high school coming in—he was a hard-working kid from Wisconsin,” Kelly said. “Had a dream to be a Badger, so you can never doubt kids like that. They’ve got all the things in the world pointing them to have success here.”

Wisconsin’s linebacker corps is perhaps the team’s most experienced unit, and Keefer ultimately hopes to crack the rotation.

“Spring is cool—You get to learn a lot of things and it’s fun to play with the guys, but fall is when it matters,” he said. “We’ve got to win some games, and I really want to be a part of that.”

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Saturday was a step in the right direction.

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