By TOM LEA
MADISON – One of the intriguing themes of spring camp year in and year out is the amount of position changes taking place. This year it seems as though the defensive line has moved front and center.
Defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge explained some of the moves to reporters following a recent practice. He also talked about the progression some key players are making.
The following is the transcript of Partridge’s interview with reporters.
Now that you’re a couple practices in can you tell us where some of your guys stand?
Partridge: Inside, at the tackle spot, the three top guys competing for time are Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer and Jordan Kohout. Right now all three of those guys really are considered ones. A fourth guy fighting for time is Bryce Gilbert, who has made a ton of strides here in the offseason. Then we moved Warren Herring inside to tackle as well. He’s right there in the mix at that spot.
He’s in the 270-pound range, right?
Partridge: He’s in the 270s right now and peeking around the corner at 280 pounds. We’re excited about bringing some more athleticism and he’s got the size to do it. At the end spots you’re looking at Brendan Kelly and Pat Muldoon running with the ones right now. Konrad Zagzebski and Tyler Dippel are there with David Gilbert out because he’s still fighting the foot injury.
At the end of last season you talked about some of the younger guys like James Adeyanju and Jesse Hayes really coming on. How far are they off the…
Partridge: Well, we’re really excited about some of the things James Adeyanju is doing in the pass game. He’s really come a long way fundamentally that way. To compare him to somebody recently he’s got O’Brien Schofield type of skills. So we’re excited about that. Jesse Hayes has some leverage talents with him in terms of the run game. He’s just got a lot of football to learn. If those two excel here quickly they could be in the mix for some situations this fall.
What was the thought process with moving Warren inside? You like big guys outside, too.
Partridge: I do, but right now I felt like he was best served with his abilities and the size gain to be inside. I think he can be a difference maker for us there. He started to show some of those things throughout the course of last year. I think he can really make a difference inside.
I assume you’re just trying to get more athletic along the interior?
Partridge: Yes. And again, looking at his frame and how much time he has moving forward I can see him being 290 or 300 pounds easy by the end.
What’s been the biggest change with Zagzebski?
Partridge: Just physically. He’s battled little injuries here or there his whole career. This is the first eight-week offseason cycle that he’s had to train with the team full time. I think you’re just seeing a different physical presence out of Zags out there on the practice field, just from a strength and quickness standpoint.
Is he comfortable at defensive end now?
Partridge: I think he is. You’re really starting to see some of that explosion that he’s always had because he’s not thinking as much. He’s just playing.
One more question about Warren Herring. Do you anticipate a learning curve with his move to the inside? It seemed like he was making a lot of progress outside.
Partridge: Yeah, well really once we started to move to bowl prep we were giving him a lot of reps in both with the intent of potentially moving him inside. He got a leg up in bowl prep and now we moved him in full time. We’re doing a couple of little things differently in terms of get-off keys that play into quick twitch guys. I think that will help him fit right into the mix.
Will you get anything from David Gilbert in spring camp, do you think?
Partridge: Probably not right now. I think their intent is to hold him out to be careful and make sure that foot heals 100 percent and just to play it on the safe side. We intend on getting him back for summer conditioning in June.
Are you anticipating, as long as everybody is healthy, to have as many guys able to rotate in as you did last year?
Partidge: Potentially. But I do think there are potentially six depending on the development of the next few guys that could be on a whole different level. Especially with the top three (defensive ends) and top three (defensive tackles).
I know last year Brendan Kelly said at the end of the 2012 season he would explore getting a year (of eligibility) back. Is that still the plan?
Partridge: Yeah, the way I understand the rule it’s not until after your fifth year that you can apply. I couldn’t speak to the process. I do know that he’s lost two years of play for health reasons. If you look at past cases you’d think there would be a chance.
Was it tough to see Kyle Costigan and Joe McNamara move from defensive tackle to offensive line?
Partridge: I did. I miss them. I definitely do. That certainly played into moving Herring inside a little bit. I think the interior of the offensive line had some needs and I think those two guys can help. I didn’t want to see either one of them go to the other side because I was excited with their progress. We just felt for the sake of the Wisconsin Badgers that it was the best move for our success moving forward.
What’s the biggest thing you guys are looking for in year two of your defensive staff?
Partridge: I think the continuity of fits. As we looked back and studied last year — run fits I’m talking about — anytime we had troubles more times than not it was a misfit by this position or that position that led to a potential big play. If we get consistent with those fits in our blitzes as well as our base calls we feel like we can really improve the run defense. Statistically that was one of the things we were a little disappointed in. We were in the 40s.
There were some other categories we were proud of. But that’s the one. If we get our fits really cleaned up and tight…it’s the second year of Chris Borland at mike linebacker, we have a bunch of defensive linemen back that can now disrupt and make plays in the backfield. The combination of fits and more plays in the backfield by the defensive line will make a huge impact on our run defense.
Would you include some plays in the Rose Bowl?
Partridge: Not so much run fits there. Guys weren’t misfitting there as much as they were getting out of position. They were really, really fast. Sometimes we were in position and they out-legged us. We had to adjust our alignments there in the second half and it made a big difference.