Defensive tackles fill in the gaps

Defensive tackle Patrick Butrym will lead a young group of lineman to try and replace departed seniors Jeff Stehle and Dan Moore.

MADISON — Every player on the Wisconsin football team has watched film until their eyes crossed. The bona fide leaders for the Badgers will stay after practice and do their best Peyton Manning impression.

It takes true dedication, however, to watch film just for fun with your buddies.

That is exactly what starting defensive tackles Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout did one night with fellow defensive lineman J.J. Watt when they decided to pop in a DVD of departed senior defensive tackles Jeff Stehle and Dan Moore. The experience stuck with Kohout as he prepares for his first collegiate start.

"The chemistry they had and how they dealt with one another, how they interacted, they were like a family," Kohout said of last year's defensive line. "They always worked their tails off and did what needed to be done."

"They just got the job done."

Getting the job done would qualify as an understatement.

The Badgers led the Big Ten in rush defense last year, holding opponents to 88.2 yards per game. Stehle and Moore accounted for a big part of that, occupying blockers and freeing linebackers Mike Taylor and Culmer St. Jean to flow uninhibited to the ball carriers.

"Those guys brought a lot of experience and understanding of how to prepare," Partridge said of the departed seniors.

"I am happy with the progress from the guys we have now. It is apples and oranges comparing the two [groups]. We will see after a few games."

Kohout specifically, impressed early in camp. A redshirt freshman who enrolled a semester early in the spring of '09, Kohout seized the starting job along side Butrym early this fall with a stand out performance. A naturally strong 300-pounder, Kohout's technique has improved leaps and bounds to the point where he is one of the most polished defensive lineman at UW, despite his young age and lack of game experience.

"You are now seeing the value of the extra semester," Defensive line coach Charles Partridge said. "Now he is paying the dividends, because he is like a true veteran. He is not performing like a redshirt freshman."

The defensive tackle rotation is rounded out by Eriks Briedis, Ethan Hemer and true freshman Beau Allen.

A 325-pound native of Minnesota, Allen stands to be the only true freshman seeing action on defense against UNLV in the season opener. Of course, Allen stands at No. 5 in the rotation as he learns raw strength isn't everything at the college level.

"It is really rare that you are going to be able to run through a Big Ten offensive lineman, so he is learning that," Kohout said of Allen. "His technique is actually far beyond what mine was coming out of high school, which is nice to start with."

"For a young man coming in as a true freshman, he is advanced for his age," Partridge added. "The biggest lesson he has had to learn is you have to rely on your fundamentals and that is coming along."

While they may not be the same group that gave Big Ten Offensive coordinators fits last year, the young defensive tackles prospects look a lot better at the end of camp then it did at the beginning.

"If you would have asked me in the spring, it was a little…," Butrym started before tailing off. "You could tell guys were still developing. Now guys have come so far."

"All we need to do is our job and we'll be fine."

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