The situation for the University of Wisconsin football team's secondary is less than ideal, as strong safety Jay Valai has missed the last three practices with a concussion.
But something good has come out of it as junior free safety Aaron Henry has responded with a couple of strong practices in Valai's absence.
Henry had his best practice since moving to safety Wednesday morning — the first one Valai missed — and followed it up with another good performance Thursday.
"Oh, man," defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said Thursday, when asked to describe Henry's efforts. "Really good the last two days."
"I don't know if the game slows down when you're at a position long enough," Doeren said of Henry's progress since moving to safety last season. "He's just been playing there and maybe got the reps where now he's confident. I think he also knows with Jay gone he's got to be the vocal guy back there."
Not only is Valai out, but Henry sits out the second practice of two-a-days as a precautionary measure, due to the torn anterior cruciate knee ligament he suffered as a freshman late in the 2007 season that caused him to be redshirted in 2008.
With Valai and Henry out Wednesday night, junior Shelton Johnson — normally the backup free safety — worked at strong safety and converted cornerback Dezmen Southward worked at free safety.
"Jay's got to deal with what he's dealing with right now and Aaron's being careful every other day with his knees, which is the right thing to do," Doeren said.
The situation is short term so the coaches don't seem too concerned.
"Jay will be back," defensive backs coach Chris Ash said. "He's obviously our senior leader and a guy we're going to count on to do a lot of things for us. The guys who are out there are working hard and trying to do the best they can do."