MADISON - The depth at the defensive line has been talked about almost obsessively throughout the offseason months. Now that fall camp is nearly complete, it seems as though some of that depth on paper is poised to break out on the field.
Following a recent practice BadgerBlitz.com caught up with co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge.
The following is a question and answer with Partridge.
I talked to Brendan Kelly the other day and he just seems to be really excited to get back out there.
Partridge: Yeah, you can see it in the energy of his play. We're slowly adding a few reps each day and he's slowly starting to get back to the form he ended spring ball with. That's a guy who is contending to start.
What do you expect with him? I would assume that even with all the injuries he's had in the past that they would still be the same as they are for everyone else.
Partridge: Without a doubt. I expect him to know his job, which he does. I expect him, because he's demonstrated that he's going to play as hard or harder than anyone out there, I expect that every snap. He's shown that thus far.
He talked about a whole long laundry list of things he needs to get better with. Is that just something that comes to be expected when you're not practicing as much?
Partridge: I think so. The bottom line is that you've got to have reps to get better fundamentally. You saw that right away. I think he kind of had a feeling initially that he was going to come back and be right in the form that he was, but he realized within three or four snaps that he wasn't. But the thing about Kelly is he's very, very self-aware. You're seeing very marked improvement per practice.
He says with each practice he feels good and feels healthy. He just gets that much more peace of mind that he's close to getting back and at full health. Does it give you peace of mind, too, with each practice you see him get all the way through?
Partridge: It does. He's been through a lot of injuries so getting that confidence back and trust back in his own body is important for him. It's never been a matter of toughness. It's been a matter of whether anything is going to happen again and getting over those things. He gets more confidence with every practice he gets through.
Kind of switching gears now to Warren Herring. He's kind of had a strong fall camp, hasn't he?
Partridge: Not bad. Warren is still a little ways a way. He's just inconsistent with his technique. That's the bottom line with Warren. When he's sharp technically he's got a chance to make some plays. When he's not he's out of position pretty bad. It's just going to be a matter of getting his muscle memory up and getting him more consistent.
He's still a young guy so that comes to be expected doesn't it?
Partridge: Yeah, you half way forget because he came early that spring. He's still young. He's a freshman.
Did he make major strides this offseason, muscle-wise with adding weight?
Partridge: Yeah, he looks great. He put a lot more weight on his back in the squat rack. He's coming along at the pace you'd hope.
Sticking with the defensive end position, we're less than two weeks away from the season opener. Are you happy with what you're seeing out of Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert?
Partridge: I'm excited about both of them. We're still going to need to see some progress of some very specific things over the next week. Louis is doing a great job against the run and taking care of his gap. We want to see him strike and shed better. There are a couple of other little things that we're working on that will get him to where we need to be. He's doing a good job of understanding his job and running to the ball and making some plays that way. We've just got to get him to get off blocks with the run coming right at him instead of holding strong and holding his gap. Get rid of them and go make the play in the backfield. That's the next step.
Did he kind of develop a spin move? Kind of a go-to move?
Partridge: I wouldn't say it's a go-to move for him right now because he's using those long arms to do some things. But he has a good awareness of when he's past the quarterback and that's when the spin move comes into play.