By Tom Lea
Charlie Partridge, UW's newly tabbed co-defensive coordinator, still has a strong influence on the positional group he's coached for the entirety of his tenure on campus. That mean's he's still going to be searching for six-to-eight players capable of handling the rigors in the trenches throughout a Big Ten slate of games.
If one thing is for certain, it's that Patrick Butrym, a senior leader-to-be will be in that mix. He'll enter fall camp as a bona fide starter with more than enough experience and capability to help ease the burden of losing All-Everything J.J. Watt to the NFL.
Look, of all the questions that will need to be answered by the start of the season regarding the unit, the one glaring one is where will the defensive line's pressure of opposing quarterbacks come from?. Which area will be its strong suit? Will it come from the edges, with Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert, Brendan Kelly or Pat Muldoon, like it has each of the past two seasons with O'Brien Schofield and Watt? Or will the middle of the line, the defensive tackles, rise to the occasion and figure out a way to initiate a punch from the middle?
When trying to answer those questions you look at the seniors. You look at a guy like Nzegwu on the edge and a guy like Butrym in the middle. They've each played in a bevy of games and have each shown flashes that they can overpower their opponents or utilize their quickness to blow by them. It will be on them, and especially Butrym, to make sure the defensive line remains stout against the run and an annoyance for opposing team's backfields.
Butrym, who quietly put together a very solid season a year ago, will have an opportunity to leave Madison with a bang. If his progression through the past four years in Madison is any indication, it seems as though his fifth season in cardinal and white could be his best. He's strong, fast and technically sound. If there's a recipe for success at the defensive tackle position, he has all the ingredients.
Now it's just a matter of doing it week in and week out.
UP NEXT: No. 11 on our list logged a pretty solid year a season ago. Maybe more importantly though, at least moving forward, was the fact he competed through an entire season while staying healthy. That should pay dividends in 2011.