September 1, 2008

Defensive line to move on without DeCremer

MADISON, Wis. - When head coach Bret Bielema somberly announced the possibility of sophomore defensive end Kirk DeCremer not playing again for the Badgers due to a setback with his back, the media room went silent.

Anytime the coach gets somewhat emotional, one can feel the impact that that certain player has had within the program and the impressions he has made.

"He's a tremendous young man that has done a lot of good things here," Bielema said. "So that's a tough one for us."

DeCremer, a local kid from Verona, a town just outside of Madison, made his splash a season ago as a redshirt freshman last season. Throughout, he recorded a team high 5.5 sacks, and garnered first team freshman All-American accolades by The Sporting News. He played in every game in 2007 for the Badgers and was one of their better, if not best, pass rusher.

"It's always tough when you lose one of your guys," senior defensive tackle and team captain Mike Newkirk said. "It's one of us. Now we wish him the best, try to be there to support him, but along those lines you still kind of got to have that next man in mentality which is kind of hard because it's your teammate and your friend.

"Sometimes it seems kind of cold, but it's something that you kind of got to do. There's life after football, so he's got to do what he's got to do for him and make sure that he's taking care of that part of his life."

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound DeCremer has been dealing with a relatively serious back injury for some time. It sidelined him throughout the entirety of spring practice and somewhat limited him in fall camp, although he did practice.

"Kirk, he's just gone through so much to get to where he is," Bielema said. "The back surgery a year ago and to feel so good. Absolutely a wonderful kid, a local kid so I get questions about him all the time.

"Kirk's been through enough personal tragedy in his own life, the passing of his father, it's something that's difficult to swallow because he's someone that wants it so bad."

As sad as it is to hear of a young career possibly coming to a close, the team will need to figure out a way to match his production.

If Saturday afternoon's season opener against Akron was any indication of the defensive end rotation without DeCremer, Badger fans will see plenty of true freshman Brendan Kelly in the mix. He fits the mold, much like DeCremer, as another eager and talented defensive end prospect.

"I was impressed with him over the summer," Newkirk said. "He's got a great work ethic, as far as athletically, he's very good. But even on the field his technique and stuff is very mature for a freshman."

Along with Kelly, the Badgers will deploy transfer Dan Moore into the scheme as well as new starter O'Brien Schofield. Against the Zips, Schofield recorded UW's first sack of the season on their opening defensive possession to force Akron to a punt, hopefully a sign of things to come for UW.

"There have been guys that stepped in," Newkirk said. "There's been guys throughout the week, he (DeCremer) was on limited practice, so there was those guys getting reps, getting developed. I think OB (O'Brien Schofield) will be taking his reps now on the Badger personnel.

"He's very similar as far as athletic ability…So I think we'll be looking to see good things from him."

For DeCremer, a non-playing role will present itself for him in the future. Bielema mentioned he was interested in getting into the coaching ranks try to make a living on that front. Perhaps, with his experience, he can help guide some of the new players in the right direction as they develop.

"He spoke with the team today (Sunday), said he wanted to be a big part of the program," Newkirk said. "You know, he's still welcome, he's one of us."

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