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July 16, 2011
By Tom Lea
Look, the defensive line at Wisconsin might be as deep as it's ever been, if not more, since Bret Bielema has been the head coach. The defensive tackles have four guys that can play, and probably even start, in Patrick Butrym, Jordan Kohout, Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer. That will be a rotation that should be able to remain fresh and one that will likely generate a strong push up the middle.
Outside, Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert, Pat Muldoon, Warren Herring and Brendan Kelly comprise what should be a somewhat solid group of ends. But solid, at least as it relates to the 2011 version of UW's defense, might not be good enough.
Fair or not, there's a lot of pressure on Nzegwu to really step up and follow the same tradition O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt have established at the position. Each of those guys, particularly Schofield, essentially came out of nowhere and dominated the defensive end position their final season on campus. Each of them became unquestioned leaders of their respective defenses and each of them helped guide their team to highly successful seasons.
Now, as the only senior defensive end on the roster, it's on Nzegwu to contribute at a similar level. His team, and more specifically his defense, absolutely needs him to do that.
Because the middle of the defensive line is so stout against the run, the unit in general has a chance to be one of the better attributes about Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge's defense. If one of those two defensive ends in Nzegwu or Gilbert prove to be consistently as explosive as they have show flashes of, UW's defense will be in great shape.
It's obvious Nzegwu has the body shape and build to be a dominant defensive end. He just needs to get more fundamentally sure and more confident in his ability to be a playmaker.
If that comes to fruition, the UW defense will have a chance to be better than it was a year ago and it will have a chance to help the team contend for it's second consecutive Big Ten title.
UP NEXT: No. 5 on our list will be playing a new position this year and will likely play a major role in the success of the offense.