Lucas at Large: Young guns looking for time along d-line

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A spring football intrasquad game often takes on the appearance of a "futures" game - similar in some respects to what is staged during the All-Star break by Major League Baseball.
    
Instead of a collection of minor league all-stars, you are treated to a number of freshmen - from the recruiting class of 2011 - that redshirted last fall and functioned in anonymity on the scout team.
   
Some of these redshirts carried higher profiles into spring practice than others, most notably quarterback Joel Stave and tailback Melvin Gordon, who was coming off a medical redshirt.
   
Stave and Gordon distinguished themselves in last Saturday's scrimmage at Camp Randall.

Two other redshirts are less recognizable but distinguishable by their football DNA.
 
No. 41, Jesse Hayes, is the son of Jay Hayes, a former UW assistant under Barry Alvarez and the defensive line coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
 
No. 99, James Adeyanju, is the brother of Victor Adeyanju, the former Indiana Hoosiers defensive end and fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams.

Both are defensive ends. Neither is quite ready for prime-time.

"Two springs from now," said UW coach Bret Bielema, "I can see them being dominant players."

Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge could see them contributing sooner than later.

"I would not put them in the top three or four defensive ends right now," Partridge said. "But if they have a great summer and they come into training camp at a high level, they could climb into it."

If you were to grade that position group this spring, Partridge pointed out, you would have to give it an "incomplete" because of the absence of David Gilbert, who's recovering from foot injuries.

"We know what David can do and bring," Bielema said.

Gilbert can bring pressure; he can be one of the better edge rushers in the Big Ten.

"I'm also excited about Brendan Kelly," Bielema added.

After Gilbert was injured last season, Kelly took over at defensive end opposite Louis Nzegwu.

Kelly got eight starts and Pat Muldoon got two.

Gilbert, Kelly and Muldoon are UW's top three defensive ends.

"There's a separation after them," Partridge admitted.

Konrad Zagzebski, a redshirt sophomore, has yet to rise to that level because of injuries.

However, he has drawn some attention to himself with his jersey number, No. 74.

That once belonged to UW rush end Tom Burke, an All-American.

While not in that class - few are - Zagzebski has made a favorable impression.

Based on what he showed this spring, Partridge said, "Zags continues to get better."
   
That also holds true for Hayes and Adeyanju.
   
"I was really excited about the progress that they made in the last week of spring ball," Partridge said. "Without question, they are a ways off. But they're getting better and learning the game.
   
"There's so much fundamentally that you have to be good at to play at this level. There's just a lot that goes into being a full-time defensive player; mentally and certainly physically."
   
Bielema has gotten a glimpse of what they can do, and he likes their promise.
   
From a technical standpoint, Bielema said, "Jesse (Hayes) keeps his play-side hand and leg free as good as anyone I've ever seen. He's very athletic."

Very undersized, too, though he's getting bigger. Hayes reported at 220 pounds.

"When I came in, I looked like a receiver," he conceded.

Hayes has gotten his weight up to 250 pounds. He'd like to play at 260 or 265.

Adeyanju is also carrying around 250 after putting on 20 pounds since last August.

"I want to retain my speed and quickness while I build muscle," he said.

Lining up opposite Ricky Wagner and Josh Oglesby was an education for Adeyanju.

"It made me so much better," he said. "I really appreciated going against those guys."

While on the scout teams, Hayes not only learned from battling the offensive tackles, but he learned from watching former UW quarterback Russell Wilson handle his business, on and off the field.

"I liked the way he carried himself," he said. "He was someone to look up to."

In the end, the Badgers don't have to accelerate the learning curve with Hayes and Adeyanju.

They can afford to be patient, and wait.

"I don't know how much they will help us," Bielema said, "especially with David coming back."

But he wouldn't rule them out, either; he never rules out anyone if they can show they can play.

And they will both get that chance in training camp. "All it takes is hard work,'' Hayes said.

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