MADISON, Wis. - When new defensive line coach Charlie Partridge joined the UW coaching staff last spring, he accepted a major challenge with his new role. After losing Nick Hayden to graduation, and the rest of the line to injuries, many were worried about how the line would perform in 2008. However, five games into the season, Partridge has his defensive line playing at an extremely high level.
BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the new position coach Wednesday following practice. The following is a question and answer with Partridge.
Five game into the season, how do you feel the defensive line has progressed especially through the losses and tough times?
Partridge: Well the thing that I'm most proud of, while we've had two heartbreaking losses in a row, without question is their ability to come back to work every single day. They're focus is on making whatever improvements they can and with that I'm very happy.
O'Brien Schofield was telling me that he doesn't feel the defensive line wears down physically at the end of ball games, but that the mental aspect, being fundamentally sound kind of takes a hit. Is that a fair assessment of how the d-line's play has been at the end of the game?
Partridge: Well I think it's just a matter of making sure that we continue to focus. I wouldn't say that anything towards the end of the game from a mental standpoint with the defensive line is decreased in the fourth quarter. We just got to make sure we're ready to play against Penn State.
Just talking about O'Brien specifically, what has he brought to the defensive line?
Partridge: You know, his effort, his snap to whistle, chase the ball down, do whatever it takes to get to the ball is infectious. It's that effort and that approach that's allowing him to improve from week to week.
Is that something you can coach or is it just a matter of certain people having that?
Partridge: Some have it and some you have to demand it. With OB, it's something that he demands of himself and if he ever drops below that level, I don't have to say much to him. All I have to do is tell him that he's not performing at the level that he demands of himself and he snaps right back.
How much does emotion play, especially at the defensive line position? I've noticed O'Brien, and Dan Moore in particular as being very emotional players out there.
Partridge: You know, football is certainly an emotional sport and you've certainly got to have a balance. I've seen players that take it too far over the edge and then make mistakes and can't focus. It's finding that fine balance for each individual and making sure that's where they are for game day.
Moving forward with the depth, how do you feel the depth of the line is on the d-line, especially with guys like Jeff Stehle and Patrick Butrym getting more reps.
Partridge: It's improving, the biggest thing is is those guys continue to improve. We'll see more rotations through the course of the season, but I'm happy with the improvement as they've come along. Hopefully as the year goes along we'll be able to get some more rotation.
For the third straight week, the team is facing a spread offense, and high powered at that. Are you guys getting sick of covering the spread?
Partridge: Ah, well, you know what, it's the way college football is. I want to say we have six or seven on the schedule now and that's college football. That's where it is now.
How would you assess the performance of the line in regards to handling the spread?
Partridge: The thing that excites you is, for the most part, we've been very assignment sound. You know, obviously a couple plays here or there broke out on us, but overall, percentage wise, we've done some good things. We just got to continue to improve that.
Through the defensive standpoint, you guys have put together two pretty good performances in the two conference games. How frustrating is it when 2,3,4,5, plays wind up determining a win or a loss?
Partridge: That's, really, that's defensive football. On offense, if the play doesn't go well it usually means it's second and 10. And on defense, if it doesn't go well, they've always got the chance to break out and score. That's just the way it is. You can't continue to give up big plays and have the kind of success you want. That's one of our big focuses this week, is take care of your job, do your job right, be 1/11th of the puzzle and we're going to be successful. That's just what we got to continue to work on.
Is that where the leadership, whether it be Mike Newkirk or someone else really comes into play?
Partridge: No question. I mean, I'm blessed with the three seniors on defensive line. I got a great group and OB's followed suit as a young player with his kind of energy. We've got a number of other seniors, Dre (DeAndre Levy) and Jonathan Casillas that are doing a great job as well. I'm proud with how the kids have come back to work this week after two heartbreaking losses. They've come right back to work and got focused on Penn State immediately. So I'm proud of that.
How tough is it to do that, especially with the way both losses came about? Sometimes, those things can linger and eat at you for a long time.
Partridge: That's where you got to buy into what's been built around here before I got here and that's the 1-0 mentality. Regardless of how the game went the week before, you learn from it, you watch the film, you make the corrections, and you put it to bed and you move on and learn from what went wrong. If we continue to do that, things will continue to get better here and we'll win a lot of games.
Is there a sense of urgency right now, at this moment?
Partridge: There's always a sense of urgency. I think you always feel the need to perform because we all have lofty goals, we all have high expectations of ourselves. Being that people in this program are all that way, there's always a sense of urgency. I don't think you can be a part of a division 1A program without always having that regardless of what happened last week.
I know you weren't here last year, but Wisconsin went into Penn State and were run out of the building. The this game mean a little bit more, maybe have a redeeming factor for that loss and the loss last week at home?
Partridge: Yeah, I mean, I wasn't here, but obviously, when you're studying their scheme, their last year's film is within those study films. Our players certainly are motivated for this game. I don't think they feel they've performed up to their abilities last year and they just want to perform to the best of their abilities and let the best team win. So there's certainly a goal to say, 'Let's do our best, let's perform, let's execute and then let the best team win.'
On film, watching Daryl Clark, he kind of came out of nowhere. What's he done that makes it especially difficult for a defensive line to handle him?
Partridge: Just, you know, athletically, all those guys on that team. (They're) coached very well. I know a number of those guys from being out in that area for a while. They're a good football team and we got a great challenge ahead of us but it's those challenges that you live for. Before the game last Saturday, the energy was palpable. You look around on a night like that in Camp Randall, those are the things that dreams are made of. We came up a little short. (But) we have another opportunity this weekend to do the same thing. Thousands of coaches and players alike would dream of being on a stage like that. You just got to take advantage of it.
What can you take from playing against Terrelle Pryor last week into this week's game and going against Clark?
Partridge: The biggest thing is you've got to be really smart from a defensive line standpoint about being in great pass rush lanes, don't give him an escape valve. If he starts to move around, as a foursome, we've got to close in on him and not allow him to escape. That's what we'll take from last week into this week.
Would you consider their running back Evan Royster as one of the most underrated running backs in the conference?
Partridge: Well I think he's a great player. I've got to be honest with you, I don't see a lot of the media outlets, I don't have time. But all I know is what I see on film and that (being) he's a great player.
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