One of those players is redshirt freshman Louis Nzegwu.
Adding 15 pounds of bulk in the offseason and finding himself second of the depth chart, Nzegwu is one of the many Badgers taking advantage of spring practices and has already caught the eye of head coach Bret Bielema, who applauded Nzegwu's ever-improving footwork.
Nzegwu sat down with Badger Nation and talked about how important the spring practices are for him in his quest to become a starter.
Badger Nation: How's this spring been going for you thus far through the first couple weeks?
Louis Nzegwu: It's gone pretty good. I have tried to progress every practice and I think Thursday was one of my better days. We've got five practices done and 10 more to go, so I just try to get a little better everyday.
BN: Coach talked about your mobility with your footwork and being able to move has been what he's really been impressed with so far. Would you agree that that has been one of your strong points so far this spring?
Nzegwu: Oh yeah, I was trying to work on that each and every practice -footwork, footwork, footwork. I think that really improved as practice went on. One of my key things is my football because I wouldn't say it was perfect before, but it is getting really up there.
BN: How have you changed physically and mentally since you first came here? What did you take away from your redshirt season last year?
Nzegwu: My redshirt season, I thought I had a better opportunity to play so I was in the mindset that I could go in at any time. Physically, I have been lifting pretty hard during our offseason 6 a.m. lifts. I have really taken that to heart and just given it my all.
BN: What was your weight when you came in here
Nzegwu: I came in around 215. BN: So you've added about 15 pounds of muscle. Do you feel any different than when you came in here and how has your game changed with how much weight you have put on?
Nzegwu: I feel like I have gotten a little bit quicker than before. It's helped me be more physical with my weight. Before at 215, I felt I was pretty light and I got moved around a little bit. Now I am getting moved around a little less than I was before and have been able other people with my strength out there.
BN: How has new line coach Charlie Partridge adapted to you guys and how have things gone the first couple of weeks?
Nzegwu: He's great. He's really on to us as a hand-to-hand coaching and everything like that. He really knows his stuff. He was a defensive lineman himself and he's helped us improved throughout these first five practices.
BN: Has he done anything different like drills or focused in on something different that has benefited you guys?
Nzegwu: I would not say that everything has been changed but he's really helped us with our speed rushes and hand techniques, which before we did not do as much of. The hand techniques he's been working with us with has really helped us.
BN: There's no incumbent starter at the left end position where you are, which means there's a good opportunity for people to compete for that position. How do you feel about how you, O'Brien Schofield and Ricky Garner are competing for that position, getting reps and getting time?
Nzegwu: The competition is good. I was third string but then Ricky got hurt so I moved to second. I am just taking every opportunity to get better and O'Brien has been helping me out a lot and he's a really good leader. So it Shaughnessy at the other end position. They both have been helping me around.
BN: What have you all taken from Shaughnessy because he is the elder statesmen on that defensive line? What have you all absorbed from him?
Nzegwu: Matt helps me a lot. I would say he's the leader of the defensive line, him and Mike Newkirk, and that he has helped me a lot with the d-end position, the mentality to get my craft right and everything like that. He's been keeping me straight.
BN: How big is this spring for you? You're number two on the chart behind Schofield, you're getting a chance to showcase what you've been able to do over the last year and make a push for some playing time come the fall. Have you thought how important this spring might be in the long run?
Nzegwu: I think this springs really important right now to get reps in now. They recruited a lot of defensive end and some are transferred in. The time to step up his right now because I am sure they are going to give others the chance to play and everything like that. The time is ours and I have to take that opportunity.
BN: Some view it as discouraging when coaches bring in a lot of players at their position or transfers come in. Do you find that discouraging or more encouraging that it stimulates that competition?
Nzegwu: I don't find it discouraging at all. It's only going to make us better, more competition makes us rise up for certain occasions. It's going to make us all better.
BN: Obviously it's very early in the process but how good do you think this defensive line is going to be? How good do you think this spring is going to make this defensive line better?
Nzegwu: By the start of the season, I think the defensive line is going to be really. We have some injuries but as soon as we get (Jason) Chapman and Newkirk back and everything, we're going to have a veteran line. Schofield started a game last year so he has that experience. In the long run, our defensive line is going to be a lot better because of the young guys we have. We're going to work off each other.