CARLISLE, Pa. -- Lavern "Torgy" Torgeson is not one to throw praise around casually, but in the case of Bobby Wilson the accolades flow like syrup over hotcakes.
"He's got everything it takes," the Washington Redskins defensive line coach gushed yesterday. "Great quickness, good hands . . . He's smart.
"Yes, I think he's going to be as good as advertised."
It is not just the novelty of having a first-round draft choice in their midst that excites the Redskins, but the sincere conviction they have someone special in Wilson, the 17th pick in April's NFL draft.
In just two weeks of training camp, the 6-foot-2, 276-pound defensive tackle has shown he has the rare ability to collapse a quarterback's pass protection from the middle of the line. In four scrimmages he has improved, if not in leaps and bounds, then in steady and persistent charges.
He will get his preseason baptism in Sunday night's exhibition opener in Pittsburgh.
Asked if Wilson might become a starter as a rookie, Torgeson hedged, but only slightly.
"We expect him to play a lot," Torgy said. "And he's going to get better every time out."
Wilson is the newest cog in an almost totally revamped defensive line. A year ago at this time, the defensive line was the Achilles' heel of the Redskins defense. But tackles Eric Williams and Tim Johnson arrived in separate preseason deals, and Jumpy Geathers came back from knee surgery in midseason to strengthen the pass rush. Add Wilson to the mix and the line suddenly is the strength of the defense.
Wilson, who got a three-year contract for $2 million plus a $1
million signing bonus, already is in elite company with the Redskins. He is only the club's fourth first-round draft choice in the last 23 years. The other three -- Darrell Green in 1983, Mark May in '81 and Art Monk in '80 -- all went to the Pro Bowl. Only May, in San Diego, is no longer with the team.
The soft-spoken Wilson, 23, acknowledged his draft status this way: "It puts quite a bit of pressure on a guy to be drafted in the first round . . . any guy. A man can only do so much."
AWilson was one of the secrets of last spring's draft. In his only season as a starter at Michigan State in 1990, he was an all-Big Ten first-team selection with 77 tackles and five sacks. As a junior he played behind Travis Davis, a defensive tackle now with the Indianapolis Colts.
was a little frustrating," Wilson said of his junior season. "But I liked the program and I liked the coaches.
had come from junior college [Northeast Oklahoma A&M] and I knew I had to prove myself. He had the starting spot before I got there. I got a lot of playing time, I just didn't start."
Wilson hasn't wasted any time making an impression with the Redskins. He opens eyes every time he slips past an offensive lineman with one of his quick outside moves. Torgeson isn't certain how he'll use Wilson just yet.
don't know if we'll use him as a pass rusher or a run player," Torgeson said. "I think he'll develop as an all-around player. He plays hard sideline to sideline, with great effort all the time. I think that will be the outstanding thing about him, his effort sideline to sideline."
For now the Redskins are using Wilson at left tackle behind Eric Williams. And while Wilson doesn't say much, he observes and listens.
The most important thing I've learned is the intensity of these guys," he said. "It fires me up."
The Redskins have noticed.