At the beginning of fall, that depth took a hit. When Jordan Kohout announces that he had to regretfully leave the game because of head injuries, the Badgers went from three defensive tackles with multiple years of experience down to two and no certainties behind them.
"The biggest thing is you were expecting to have a three-man battle to find who are starting two was," said Partridge. "Now Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer are the clear starters. We have to see where guys are to be able to rotate in."
Sophomore Warren Herring, who was recently moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, appears locked into the third spot. The battle for the fourth spot entering the third week of camp appears to be down to two players: redshirt sophomore Bryce Gilbert and true freshman Arthur Goldberg.
Gilbert is another in a long line of players that have made the trip to Wisconsin from Brookfield Central High school. After redshirting as a freshman, Gilbert appeared in only four games a year ago. While he recorded only three tackles, Gilbert was twice named defensive scout team player of the week for his diligence in preparing the first-team offense for games against Oregon State and Nebraska.
"Defensively we have a high regard for pursuit, and I feel like I can be a good player from sideline to sideline and keep plays from going up the middle," said Gilbert. "Huge part of the defensive line game is fundamentals. If you aren't fundamentally strong, strength doesn't matter, even if you know what the play is."
Gilbert has gotten reps with the second-team defense and applying what he learned from his predecessors. From Allen, Gilbert has picked up how to play the position with intensity. From Patrick Butrym, Gilbert learned how to be knowledgeable with the game of football. From Hemer, Gilbert learned how athletic one needs to be in order to be successful.
"I take bits and pieces from them and try to put it together for myself," said Gilbert. "I feel I have definitely made some improvements from just watching the film and talking with the coaches. I've taken advantage of the opportunity that is presented itself in front of me, and I am working hard to keep it."
Goldberg has been the bigger surprise entering just his third week of college camp. With Kohout out and Allen nursing a sprained ankle through the first half of camp, Goldberg worked with Gilbert on the second-string defensive line, getting a trial by fire.
"It's definitely an opportunity I have been waiting for," said Goldberg. "It's an opportunity that comes around every once in awhile, and I have to take advantage of it."
Goldberg took advantage of the last opportunity the Badgers' coaching staff gave him after he impressed Partridge with his aggressiveness and tenacity last summer at a high school camp. Even though the Badgers were short on scholarships and recruiting higher-caliber linemen, Wisconsin didn't hesitate to offer Goldberg, who accepted shortly after.
"He's very explosive," Partridge said of Goldberg, the only scholarship defensive lineman in the class. "He's a quick-twitch guy. We were very fortunate to have him in camp and get a good look at him. He was dominant in our camp. He has a real passion for the game and has the ability to play in another gear."
While the transition appears to be seamless, Goldberg admitted it's been a wake-up call going from being one of the bigger players at Mt. Lebanon High school in the Pittsburgh area to just another big body in the Big Ten.
He credits his transition to Partridge, who continued to heavily recruit him after tight end coach Joe Rudolph – his recruiting contact – and his high school coach were hired to coach at Pittsburgh.
"He's a great coach and I work well with him," Goldberg said. "He's a great guy. It's a lot of hours you put in here, and I am enjoying every minute of it."
Not surprisingly, Goldberg admitted to attacking the weight room as soon as he stepped on campus. He hasn't decided what his role is going to be this season (contributor or redshirt), but he is one of the building blocks of the defensive line's future.
"It means a lot to me to be here," said Goldberg. "I just fell in love with this place when I came out here and with all their success now, it's an extra bonus."