Entering his fifth season at Wisconsin, Partridge is going through spring with arguably his deepest group of playmakers he has had in his tenure. Even though he loses two senior starters, he returns seven players that contributed in a deep rotation last season, even after losing starting defensive end David Gilbert to a season-ending injury after the fourth game.
After spending the first three years as UW's defensive line and specialists coach, Partridge is entering his second year as associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He talked this week to Badger Nation about his deep defensive line, balancing his job and who is stepping up during his drills.
It seems like your defensive line is deep group once again and after watching your group scrimmage last Saturday, it looks like a group that has some young players emerging?
Partridge: I am excited about the progress of Beau Allen. His explosiveness is starting to show up. If he can get a couple little fundamental things fixed, he has got a chance to be pretty darn good, which is exciting. Ethan Hemer continues to progress. He's getting better a couple little new techniques that we've tweaked. Warren Herring is probably the guy that has jumped out to a lot of people. He's had his best string of practices at end or tackle, so I am encouraged by him.
Jordan Kohout was fighting some stuff, so he wasn't able to practice Saturday, but has had a good spring. At the end spot, Brendan Kelly has had a good spring. Pat Muldoon continues to be steady. He has shown some more explosiveness than he has ever shown. Konrad Zagzebski is progressing fast and we're anxious to get Gilbert back in the fall.
Both Kelly (hand, groin) and Muldoon (ACL) have overcome serious injuries that have taken them out for a season. How does it help having guys like that who have preserved and have that hunger inside them?
Partridge: One thing you can point to is that they have a constant sense of urgency in the meeting room, in the off season training and certainly on the practice field. It's pretty easy to point to those guys because they understand the value of time because they have lost time. Some of the young guys don't understand that the clock is always ticking. You can point to those guys and hopefully the young guys will understand that you can lose a year that fast.
Did Muldoon come into the program being recruited as a defensive tackle or a defensive end?
Partridge: He was always going to be a defensive end. We didn't know how he would grow with his body type and where he would end up, but he has done a nice job on the outside for us.
How important is it to have a guy like that available to you to start building depth? You know if David Gilbert is healthy he is going to be in there, but to have a third capable player is a big difference, right?
Partridge: All the difference in the world. My first year in 2008, we had four guys (DTs Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk and Des Matt Shaughnessy and O'Brien Schofield) and that was hard. Pretty soon those four guys weren't the same four guys we had at the beginning of the game or the beginning of the season. It's critical. We have to six with rotating three in and three out. I feel like we could potential have more than that.
Your rotation inside has gotten even stronger with Allen, Hemer, Kohout and now Herring. What was the big reason from moving him from defensive end to defensive tackle? Did his body just balloon or did you need more bodies?
Partridge: A combination of both. As we were in bowl prep, his body was starting to grow. You have a guy with some explosiveness and some quick-twitch things that he could bring a change of pace to the table. We put him in there during bowl prep to see how he would survive against the pounding of the run that our offense does. He held up fine, and now he is starting to put some things together. He's playing fast and those things are really starting to show.
Whose idea was it to move Josh Harrison from linebacker to defensive tackle?
Partridge: It really was a full staff decision and he didn't fight it at all. I give Josh credit. He's going to do whatever he can to help the team. I haven't had a chance to give him a bunch of reps, but he certainly has worked for. That's all I can ask.
You always want to get to that eight-man rotation, and it seems like you are going to get there this year, doesn't it?
Partridge: We've got a chance. Six is truly the goal. If you get to seven or eight you feel good, but you got to have six. You know how quick that changes because you lose a guy and you are down to five or four. We truly have to get up to eight by the start of the season so we can always carry a healthy six.
As the co-defensive coordinator, how have you let that title mold how you coach and how you look at the other positions on the field? Being a defensive lineman at heart, how do you make sure your focus is always in the right spot?
Partridge: I think the biggest thing is that me and Chris (Ash) figuring out our roles and the way we work together. My role is support him to help take things off his plate off a work standpoint that help him focus on his DBs, as well as the overall scheme. I think I am a good sounding board for Chris because his mindset is from the back end while mine is from the front end. I think Chris does a great job putting together a package for us and we work well together from different perspectives.
You were really juggling everything because you were the recruiting coordinator for a point, too. Even though you had that title taken off your table, how much did you enjoy an opportunity like that?
Partridge: Awesome opportunity, just a chance to show Bret that I have the organizational skills to help him in any way I can. Ultimately, it was a chance to keep this program on the track that we want, which is the ultimate goal.
It would seem your group doesn't give you too many worries right now, but what is the big concern with your group moving forward?
Partridge: Well … I want to get Dippel, Gilbert and Zagzebski healthy. When I think of the future of the defensive line, there is a very big junior class moving its way through, and we have to be very cognizant of that for the future of the program. We have to do a good job making sure we have the numbers, that we don't have a big hole and we don't get back to where we were when I first got here. It's critical. It's well documented that we don't have a lot of scholarships, which is a good problem. We have kids that stay here and develop, but we have to make sure we do the right thing in recruiting enough defensive linemen as this very good junior class works its way through.
Is that a credit then to how good incoming freshman Arthur Goldberg is, as he was the one that was worthy of your lone defensive line scholarship?
Partridge: Yes it is, and you know how we are. We don't care about stars because it doesn't affect our evaluation. Goldberg came here for camp, destroyed everybody and proved he could play at this level. Hopefully that comes true when he gets here.