In the past decade, the Badgers have always seemed to have at least one player on the defensive line who became a dominant force. I can give you three just off the top of my head in Erasmus James, O'Brien Schofield, and Derek Watt's older brother. But last year? Last year this was not what we would call their best effort.
If you recall my debut effort on the site, I was wondering if the incongruity in terms of yards per play and total defense was a recipe for luck. The games were shortened, but the line could be run upon with some amount of ease. (The 4.3 yards per carry and 153 yards per game were the worst since 2005, and were good for 69th and 60th nationally according to cfbstats.com)
After the jump? We'll break it down.
At defensive end, the sleeper prospect is David Gilbert. Like Devin Smith, there was a certain amount that was lost to the defense when Gilbert went down with a broken foot. Gilbert was in crush, kill, destroy mode in his four healthy games last year (3 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.) Put it this way, he still finished third last year in sacks. His tag team partner is Brendan Kelly, the lone senior on the two deep. He's steady, and like I said, he's the lone senior.
Patrick Muldoon was serviceable in his first real reps on the defensive line, but he definitely needs to show improvement, as Gilbert's foot is always going to be a worry. Tyler Dippel beat out Konrad Zagzebski and spring ball sensation James Adeyanju, but Dippel's has the same sort of foot problem that could cause him to be out for multiple games. Adeyjanu and Jesse Hayes are two redshirt freshman who may have circumstantial opportunities.
Gilbert's health also is a key for defensive tackle. Beau Allen was a backup defensive tackle. He generated four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He was in the backfield a lot last year. With Gilbert, he could very well be in the backfield a lot again. His tag team partner is Ethan Hemer, the latest star of the classic tale of preferred walk on who makes his way into the starting line-up. He managed five tackles in the Big Ten title game, and with another season of improvement? He's going to be a strong force.
Kohout would have been integral as the top backup, but instead the onus falls to Warren Herring and Bryce Gilbert. Herring's moved inside, and is another physical talent above his star rating. But we have seen very little of Herring in game action. Gilbert has all of four games of on-field experience. Jacob Ninneman's depth, but again, very little in regards to on-field action. And Jake Keefer was moved to tackle as well, on account of all that depth issue.
I'm not a very superstitious man, but there could very well be major problems if Allen or Hemer get hurt. Block them from ladders, mirrors, and the stray black cat. Doom could very well occur if they find themselves in a hall of ladders and mirrors.