March 28, 2010

Partridge sees improvement on defensive line

MADISON - Since coming onto campus a couple of springs ago, defensive line coach Charlie Partridge has done a phenomenal job both on the recruiting trail and within the sidelines on the field.

Now, as he prepares for his third season on the UW coaching staff, BadgerBlitz.com had an opportunity to discuss the development of his positional unit.

The following is a question and answer with Partridge.

Midway through, spring camp is going by fast. Are you starting to see some of the things you were hoping to see at this point?

Partridge: I am. I don't know how much you were able to see today (Thursday) but it was good to see Louis Nzegwu take some steps. He's starting to approach things with a more mature approach to the film study and fundamentals, which you know how big that is with me.

J.J. Watt is doing some of the things we expected trying to raise his game to another level. The defensive tackles are getting a little bit. Patrick Butrym is flashing and Jordan Kohout is getting used to the amount of reps so there are some good things that are starting to show up.

It really seems like-in talking to some of the guys on the defensive line-they say that coach Ben Herbert's strength and conditioning program really helps them get explosive. Is that a fair assessment?

Partridge: I couldn't be happier with what Herb's does and the way he studies. He's innovative and uses things that are always going to carry over to the field. He's a lot more in tune with what carries over to the field. He's not going to get them ready for a combine, he's going to get them ready to play football, which I appreciate that very much.

It has to make it that much easier for them to translate, because he has such a competitive nature down there so it can translate right out onto the field.

Partridge: No question. Every day those guys are competing one way or another. When a young man is used to competing every day it becomes part of his nature.

Doesn't that build a chemistry, too, that you can see out there?

Partridge: No question. That's one thing that I continue to make the defensive line understand. We've got to have great chemistry in the room and we try to do everything we can to respect each other and respect all those that have played the position before.

I've been watching Jordan Kohout a lot lately. It seems like they come in year one and then year two they make the biggest strides, at least that's what a lot of people say. Is that…?

Partridge: It really depends. If you look at O'Brien Schofield he made his biggest jump from year four to five. It really kind of depends. It's hard to say that year one to two is always going to be the jump, but he is making good strides.

Is he a legitimate guy to work right up there as a starter with Butrym?

Partridge: Without question. Yeah, I think he's definitely a guy to be in the mix to be a starter.

He has a good mindset. I was talking to him the other day and he's just willing to work.

Partridge: Yeah, and the thing about Jordan and it's helped him is he's learned this approach is to really take things one day at a time. If he has a bad day he's now becoming mature enough that he learns from it as opposed to dwelling on it.

When you have him and Patrick Butrym, they say they have a great chemistry together. Does that just come through repetition and is that what spring ball is really about?

Partridge: I think, like you're saying, working with Herb's all that time you make a chemistry being together so much. I think we've got a pretty good group of young men that are on this team. There are not many guys that are very hard to get along with.

Obviously you lose OB, Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle, three crucial and critical guys. But you have J.J. coming back and Pat Butrym who got plenty of experience last year, too. Are they the type of leaders you like to have on your line?

Partridge: No question. J.J. and Pat have done a nice job working and the other guys are aware that they're in a position where they need to be good followers and become leaders through the course of spring ball, the summer and leading up to the first game.

Obviously going back to OB, with Louis and David Gilbert trying to fill his role, I guess you can never fill OB's role, but are they capable of maybe smoothing that transition?

Partridge: They are capable to smooth the transition. To replace what OB did for us in that fifth year of his is going to be challenging to say the least. But you know how it is in college football. Kids graduate and we need kids behind them to get better and do anything they can to produce within the scheme.

Everybody is up for the challenge. Do you like the way that they are battling with one another?

Partridge: I do and I like the fact that they're competing with each other every day because they are making each other better. May the best man win the starting spot.

You talked about Louis Nzegwu a bit earlier, but does it just take some time for a kid that comes in like that? Especially at the defensive end position?

Partridge: Like I said, it varies by position a little bit. Some kids came in and played defensive end their whole high school career. Louis was a running back and OB was a linebacker for three years here. Some of that comes into play, too. Defensive line, if you step out of line two inches you're in trouble. It takes a while to commit all those things to muscle memory. That's the transition they go through.

Talk about David Gilbert. I was talking to him the other day and he said he wants to add another 20 pounds by the start of the season. Is that realistic?

Partridge: I'll be honest with you. I'm not worried about how much more weight he puts on. If he puts on another 10 pounds, good. But I'm not worried if he gains 20. He just needs to get stronger, faster and better at the skill of being a defensive end.

The athleticism is there, it's just becoming more fundamentally and technique savvy?

Partridge: It's the fundamentals, the understanding and reacting to the little things that you have to do every time.

One of the other things I've been noticing too, is Anthony Mains at the defensive tackle position. What can you say about him stepping in there and doing what he's been doing in there so far?

Partridge: I'll appreciate the way he's fighting. Obviously with Eriks Briedis getting nicked a little bit we needed somebody to step in and fill in a little bit. I'll give the kid credit. This may be the best one of the best things that happens for him because he's having to fight for every snap.

He's not a permanent fixture at defensive tackle.

Partridge: No.

It's got to be nice to have Tyler Westphal back in there. The kid has been banged up for most of his career.

Partridge: It's been good. He hasn't played football since the fall of 2008. Every rep is critical for him. He's got to get better fast.

Do you see the confidence brewing in him?

Partridge: A little bit. Yeah, I think there is a sense of frustration there too since he's going into his third year and he's behind fundamentally just because he hasn't played.

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