Wisconsin defense features stout front seven

Wisconsin runs a 3-4 defense, which was installed this year by first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. At Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, the Cougar offense will face a tough Badger front that's big, physical, assignment-sound, athletic and very experienced. The Cougars, however, are ready and up for the challenge.

In the Badger defensive front seven, there are six seniors and one junior. All three down linemen are seniors with plenty of experience to go around. BYU's offensive line has come a long way since the opening game against Virginia, but this game will show just how far they need to go.

"Yeah, it's definitely going to be a statement game," said Michael Yeck. "We want to prove as an offensive line that we're for real and that we can play with the best defensive fronts in the country like Wisconsin is. So, it's a really big week for us."

While Yeck feels this contest will be a statement game for the Cougars because of the caliber of team Wisconsin has, he isn't quite ready to say this will be the best defense BYU has faced this season.

"I don't know about that," Yeck said. "We've played some pretty good teams in the past. It's definitely going to be up there with one of our stiffest tests. You know, like I said, we've just got to control what we can control and that's our effort in practice this week."

Among the three down linemen for the Badgers is redshirt senior defensive tackle Pat Muldoon. Muldoon comes in at 6 feet 3 inches and 269 pounds. He has been an academic all-Big Ten player the past two years.

"I would tell you that the most important thing is that they're very physical," said Coach Tujague about Wisconsin's defensive line. "They're very well coached, so they don't make mistakes. They play smart and they do things that fit the players they have."

At the nose guard position anchoring the Badger defense is 6-foot-3-inch, 325-pound senior Beau Allen, a first-team all-Big Ten selection by Athlon and Sporting News. Allen has played in all 41 games throughout his career. BYU center Edward Fusi will face a tough task at hand, but it's one that Coach Tujague is excited for.

"I love it. I'm excited for my guys," said Coach Tujague. "Opportunities like this don't come around very often. I think we'll be ready and it's a great opportunity. Anytime you play a team that's got the reputation that Wisconsin does of being physical, as an offensive line guy you gotta love that."

"They play more smash-mouth football than Texas," said Yeck. "Texas probably had some better athletes on their defensive line, but Wisconsin's defensive line from film, they're going to play more smash mouth and come off and be more physical and strong."

Next to Allen at the other defensive tackle position is 6-foot-6-inch, 285-pound redshirt senior Eathan Hemer. Hemer started his Badger career as a walk-on before earning a scholarship. Since then he's been named a third-team all-Big Ten player by Athlon.

"Yeah, they do their own stuff and they're unique in that way," said Coach Tujague. "I just love the way they play. They play hard and they play physical. If anything, you know, they remind me of us."

Wisconsin's style of play up front is typical of the reputation found among Big Ten teams.

"Yeah, absolutely, they have that mold and I would say they're very well coached, very sound schemes, and they don't make mistakes," Coach Tujague said.

"They're all good players," Yeck said. "They're all solid and they're all really powerful. They have a linebacker [Chris Borland] that's pretty good, and so we're aware of that and we just got to be physical with him."

Behind the Badger defensive linemen will be four talented linebackers (three seniors and one junior).

"Their linebackers are real physical, so it'll definitely be a real test for us to see how we match up," said Paul Lasike. "I'm confident, with the way we're preparing right now, we'll be able to take them head up."

"They're big, they're strong, and they're powerful," said Yeck. "They're assignment-sound and they play with really good technique, so that's going to make anyone good when you have all those things."

Big, physical and strong seems to be a common theme when the Cougar players and coaches describe the Badger defense. One player receiving a lot of buzz from the Cougars is 5-foot-11-inch, 246-pound redshirt senior middle linebacker Chris Borland.

"He didn't play in the Iowa game [last week], and that's the game we've been studying, but from other games that I've seen him play in he's a great athlete – big, physical, fast too," Lasike said.

Borland has been named to the Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award and Lott IMPACT trophy watch lists. He was also a second-team all-American selection by SI.com and Phil Steele.

"He's kind of different from all the other linebackers. He doesn't just bull rush, he mixes it up, which makes it harder for us fullbacks," said Lasike. "I like it when they just run straight because it makes it easy on us. It's just head up. When they start mixing it up, like [Borland] does really well, then you have to be on your toes. You know, is he going to bull rush? Is he going to fake me out to the quarterback? So, you gotta be up for that."

The lone junior in the Badger front seven is 6-foot, 230-pound middle linebacker Derek Landisch.

At one outside linebacker position is 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound redshirt senior Ethan Armstrong, who started his career as a walk-on. He has been named a fourth-team all-Big Ten selection by Phil Steele. At the other outside linebacker position is 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound redshirt senior Brendan Kelly.

"They're very similar to Utah State, their linebackers at least," said Lasike when asked about Wisconsin's style of play. "Really good, hard to block and hard to pass protect. I would say [they're like] Utah State in terms of schemes. When you're back there and you try and get an eye on your guy, when you see them they jump around and try and mix it up, it makes it difficult for us to try and read it, so scheme-wise they're more like Utah State. Physicality-wise, probably just like Virginia. Really up front big dudes."

"You know, they're a good defense," said Yeck. "We've gone up against good defenses in the past. The only thing we can control is how hard we work, so we're just trying to put in 100 percent this week."

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