Returning five defensive tackle and four defensive ends that saw time last season, the group is chalked full of experience, talent and enough desire that its members feel it can more than cope without having junior defensive end J.J. Watt back in the rotation.
Perhaps, but as Partridge told Badger Nation earlier this week, there is still a lot of work left to be done.
Badger Nation: With so much depth and talent coming back to your unit, I am curious how your defensive line expectations have increased moving into the season coming off last year's success?
Partridge: I am holding them to a high standard. They are working their tails off every day but if I see any slip up, I am probably harder on them than I ever have been because of the expectations I have. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before we're ready for that UNLV game, so I am glad we have another week. I am happy with the progress they've made.
BN: You talk about the progress they've made. What else does this group need to do to put you in a comfortable situation when you run out on to that field Thursday?
Partridge: It's the little details, a technique here, an assignment here, putting the whole package together and transitioning to the UNLV game plan. We're just getting those things ironed out as quick as we can with some different spread things they presented over the course of last year. We're working through those wrinkles with a great purpose. If we do that, I'll feel a lot better.
BN: How much of the UNLV game tape from last year do you show your defense because some of the personal has probably changed a bit?
Partridge: There is two returning offensive line starters that are listed, including their right tackle. There are two other guys that played last year that are back-ups, so you can watch the tape from last year and learn some things on some guys technically. Schematically, you have to study everything they did last year and build your game plan on what plays to expect. We also know it's the first game and that we have to be ready for everything. They could come out in any offense they want, so we have to prepare.
BN: Does it help having a team captain on your defensive line in Patrick Butrym that was probably already the captain of your group?
Partridge: I think everybody in the room might have shocked if Pat wasn't named captain. He is a great leader, has done a great job and more than anything, everybody is just proud of him for being a team captain for the Badgers.
BN: How deep do your things your defensive line can go this year? You've always said that eight is your magic number, but it seems this year you could have enough capable bodies to go up to 10.
Partridge: Potentially. We have five tackles right now that I feel really comfortable with being in the rotation. Some will get more reps than others certainly. You are probably looking at four to five defensive ends, so we're looking at going nine to 10 deep. It's a number I've never had. To get that group production, we're going to need everybody in the rotation.
BN: With the health at linebacker, are you getting to the point where you are excited about the potential or are you still nervous that some guys have some checkered pasts?
Partridge: You have to do everything you can to not look at the injuries that happened in the past and hope for the best. It's good to have those guys back out there because they make a huge difference on our side of the ball.
BN: If Chris Borland one of this team's best run defenders because of what he adds defensively?
Partridge: He just adds an esteemed dynamic and mobility that's hard to replicate. He's a pretty special linebacker, too. He has a feel for the game and he makes plays. He's smart, he picks things up quickly and makes a difference in our defense.
Partridge: With production comes notoriety, I those other two you mentioned have had higher production. We hope Kevin can climb into that spot and reach that level of production himself.
BN: You mentioned your high expectations that you have for the defensive line. What are the expectations for your linebackers?
Partridge: They are (high), especially Chris Borland. We expect him and Mike Taylor to be impact players. We think Kevin Claxton, if he can stay healthy, can be an impact guy. From there, they're a number of guys – Conor O'Neill, Ethan Armstrong and Derek Landisch - that can come in and make some plays. We expect good things out of the starting three for sure.