By Tom Lea
O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt have each set the tone when it comes to the defensive end position inside the Wisconsin football program. Both were guys that kind of came out of nowhere at the beginning of their respective breakout seasons to household names by the end of it. The summer months, at least to them, was a time to hone their craft in a manner best suited for success.
Judging by the way they dominated their respective position during their final season in Madison, it is difficult and probably unfair, to expect a guy like David Gilbert to make similar gains. Those two guys were NFL players in a college uniform. Gilbert, who has all the physical tools necessary to become as good as them, still needs to gain the experience that each of those two players had. Playing in games as the No. 3 defensive end is different than playing in games as a starter, and a player that opposing teams game plan against.
That is where the challenge lies for the junior end. Is Gilbert veteran enough (he's seen time in 25 of a possible 26 games) from a standpoint that will carry over to his probable new role as a starting defensive end? Is he capable of being stout against the run and disciplined against the pass? Probably, but it remains to be seen until he can do it on a consistent basis when it matters most.
Look, the defensive line in general is probably the deepest it's been during the Bret Bielema era. Both Brendan Kelly (assuming he stays healthy) and Pat Muldoon are a couple of players that have the tools and drive to succeed at the position. They both had a solid spring camp and will have plenty of momentum once August rolls around. Warren Herring, a redshirt freshman, has also made strides at the end position and will offer a good amount of competition to the guys in front of him.
Gilbert, a projected starter, might be one of the most athletic players on the entire roster. He's capable of making plays with his speed, power and athleticism. Having a number of players behind him vying for playing time will do nothing but help Gilbert in the long run. There is no reason for him to get complacent or happy with his role. Having those guys chomping at the bit behind him will keep him hungry and hopefully that will translate on the field.
If you're a Badger fan, isn't that the type of attitude and competition you'd like to have pushing a player that has so much potential just waiting to break out?
UP NEXT: No. 16 on our list might be the strongest player on the entire roster. So much so that both James White and Montee Ball have to be salivating at the very thought of what he's capable of in the trenches.