MADISON - If there's one position that has received more attention than any of the others this summer - not including the off-season quarterback storyline - it would probably be the defensive end position. And the question serving as the backbone would easily be something regarding the departure of All-American J.J. Watt.
During UW's annual media day even earlier this week, BadgerBlitz.com had a chance to catch up with Louis Nzegwu, a senior at the position hoping to make a major impact.
To start I was just wondering if you bulked up a little bit, because it looks like you have?
Nzegwu: Yeah, a little bit. I gained five pounds from last season. I'm at 256 pounds now. I weighed 260 at one point during the summer, but I didn't feel that great running around. I felt like 255 is a prime weight for me right now.
What was your approach during summer conditioning? This is your senior year and your last go round. I'm just curious to see what your mindset was like during the summer months.
Nzegwu: I didn't want anything that I would regret during the fall. I took every day like I was never going to get it back and it really helped me in the weight room. Not only that, but the competition inside the weight room between all the defensive ends and defensive tackles, it was a competition between everybody each day for who could lift the most. It really pushed us all. I think that really helped our group as a whole during the summer, just having those competitions. It really helped us grow equally and equally strong.
You guys at defensive line are awfully deep. Would you say this is the deepest the position has ever been, at least since you've been here?
Nzegwu: Yes. It's the deepest it's been since I've been around. Each year there is always a guy that everybody knows is a starter. This year I seriously see -of course there is Patrick Butrym at the defensive tackle position - but besides him I see three starters as the defensive tackle position. At defensive ends I could legitimately see four different starters at the same time. Brendan Kelly, who hasn't been practicing a lot until this past spring because he's been out with a few injuries.
He's finally back and it's like he hasn't missed a step. He's doing great. He's hustling and he's a big time effort guy. I like to call him fresh legs, not because he's missing practice or anything like that, but just the way he takes each rep. It's like he's in there for the first time. He's back and I'm really happy for him.
Throughout your career there were points when you had a role that guys like Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel have now. You were trying to get into that rotation. I'm curious about now, since you're one of the top dogs, how is that competition driving you now as compared to when you were trying to work yourself up the ranks?
Nzegwu: I'm not only vying for a position within the team and the defensive line but also within the Big Ten with the other defensive ends. It's a daily battle that I'm trying to win. I know they're working hard. I don't know what they're doing, but I've got to work just as hard because in the back of my I know that they're not taking any reps off. I'm not trying to take any reps off so it's a daily battle between me and them. It's a race to see who can get better faster.
What are you hoping to improve this year?
Nzegwu: I'm hoping to improve pass rush. I didn't get as many sacks as I should have. During the summer I've been working out a lot and even through the first couple of practices the coaches have been impressed with the new pass rush arsenal that I've learned over the summer and that I've brought to practice every day. I'm happy that that has improved.
Personal expectations for yourself this year?
Nzegwu: Just to improve. Of course my expectations and my goals are high this year and higher than they were last year.
How are they different?
Nzegwu: My goals are more team oriented. Last year they were more personal, but I've got to go for the team first and not as an individual. I think I'll be better that way.