D-line hopes experience brings improvement

first_imgNot much has changed for Wisconsin football’s defensive line since last year.With a junior, two redshirt juniors and a redshirt senior, the line is one of the most experienced groups on this 2012 Wisconsin squad.“We have definitely high expectations and high standards for ourselves because we’re a group that’s had a lot of experience over the years,” junior defensive tackle Beau Allen said. “… It’s just good to be able to play with guys like that over time because you mesh well and you know everyone’s strengths.”“We’re all really intelligent … in the way that we play and the way we play together,” fifth-year senior defensive end Brendan Kelly said.Of the four lineman, three have started a handful of games, and the fourth, while not having started a game yet, is already pegged as a player with great potential.Bringing back the most experience is redshirt junior tackle Ethan Hemer. The 6-foot-6, 319-pound tackle has played in 27 games in his UW career and started 20 of those contests.Kelly has nine starts to his name in his 25 games. The ever-talkative end landed the starting role in 2011 after UW lost redshirt junior David Gilbert for the season to a broken foot.Despite playing in the most games of all the starting lineman with 29, Gilbert has only started in four, as 2011 was his first as a starter.In those four games last season, Gilbert racked up 10 tackles – three and half of which were tackles for a loss – amounting to 27 yards. He also racked up three sacks, amounting to a loss of 26 yards. Expectations are already soaring for the Coral Springs, Fla., native.“Honestly, as much pressure as the outside world puts on me, I don’t think they put more pressure than I put on myself,” Gilbert said. “My goal is to be a lot better than I was last year.”Gilbert stands at an intimidating 6-foot-4 with 250 pounds of solid muscle on his frame. Coming fast off the line, he is expected to be an effective pass-rusher and bring more pressure on the quarterback – something the consistent defensive line was lacking last year with only 17.5 sacks among the entire line, an average of 1.25 sacks per game.After breaking his right foot against South Dakota State, Gilbert has had a long road to recovery. He missed all of spring camp but kept himself in the game by helping to teach his fellow linemen and studying film. According to Gilbert, those coaching moments also made his game better.“I had to realize at the end of the day, no matter what crazy thoughts I was having, my foot was still going to be broken,” Gilbert said. “The biggest thing was to be patient and have faith and let time do its thing. … That was the hardest part, just waiting. It’s a waiting game and football players are impatient people at times.“But I definitely channeled my energy into helping our younger players come along. It helps when you feel like the person that talks to you actually knows what they’re talking about so I’m glad I could help them develop. And it helped me develop in turn.”While Gilbert was nursing his injury, Allen quickly emerged during the offseason as a player expected to bolster the UW pass rush that sputtered last year. Allen has played in all 27 games in his time in Madison, but Saturday was his first start.He made an impact last year with four sacks for a loss of 21 yards and made a total of 22 tackles. Although his specs don’t scream athleticism – 6-foot-3, 335 pounds – his linemates each lauded Allen’s speed and agility.“Bubble is… big, and he’s fast,” Gilbert said. “He takes a lot of pressure off me, a lot of attention off me and the interior guys, they have to respect him because if they don’t he’ll make the play every time. He’s an amazing physical specimen.”“I knew Beau when he was a freshman in high school so I’ve seen this kid go through a lot and transform both physically and mentally,” Kelly said. “… Beau’s really trying to transform his game into a real explosive, physical-type player. … The craziest thing is he’s so young.”Allen, a true junior, noted how excited he was to get his first start against Northern Iowa in a practice last week and how all his hard work has finally paid off.The Minnetonka, Minn., native, who currently sports a Hulk Hogan-esque mustache, actively worked on how to make his game better over the offseason, analyzing film and pinpointing his personal weaknesses. He even watched film of other pass rushers in the Big Ten and around the NFL, focusing on certain players like Jerel Worthy, a former Michigan State Spartan.“I wanted to be on the field on third down like every D-lineman wants to be on the field on third down,” Allen said. “That’s something I wanted to focus on. … It’s just something I’ve been working at and hopefully we’ll see the hard work come to fruition this season.”Last season the Badgers’ defensive line didn’t struggle to create pressure, but they failed to consistently sack the quarterback.For Kelly, the difference between bringing pressure and getting a sack is often a battle of the smallest margins. “Honestly, its inches,” Kelly said. “If I line up six inches wider on this play, maybe he doesn’t get his hand on me. … Just realizing an inch here and an inch there could be the difference between a pressure and a sack.”While questions still linger as to how potent the line will be, they remain confident success will come quickly.“I can tell, the way our D-line’s working, the way we push each other – we’ve never had a summer like this,” Gilbert said. “It’s definitely a good indicator of how things are going to be.”last_img

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