Seldom things go as expected though. Muldoon decided to redshirt his first season to build his strength, but tearing his ACL in the fall along with some other injuries retarded his growth and his opportunity to get on the field right away.
But after slowing building back his strength and getting some experience his redshirt season, Muldoon doubled his tackle production last season in 13 games, as he was able to play meaningful reps with junior David Gilbert out of the rotation.
Now 100 percent healthy, Muldoon talks to Badger Nation about overcoming his injuries, improving his body and what strides he's made during a productive spring practice season.
Talk to me about working your way back from the ACL injury and how far you have come since?
Muldoon: The hardest part of the ACL was knowing the six month journey I had in front of me, not being able to do anything. It feels like a full year to get back to full go or get back to where I was. Going through that is mentally hard. After going through that and getting back out here, I just love everything from practicing to being with my teammates.
How much did the whole process stunt your development?
Muldoon: It knocked me back because my lower body strength still isn't there. I actually had two knee surgeries – one ACL and I cracked have my knee and they needed to put two screws in. That was a six month recovery, too, so I lost a lot of leg strength and took me well over a year to get it back. I'd say that was a pretty good setback.
What was your ‘eureka' moment when you were doing something and you realized that you were back?
Muldoon: I actually had it my redshirt freshman year. Right after the injury, I was just happy to get out there and play, but I didn't feel like myself. Luckily I was able to be behind a guy like J.J. Watt. He worked so hard and did everything right. I learned a lot from him. When I was out there last year, I felt like I was my old self playing against because I was healthy.
What did it mean to you when you could finally play?
Muldoon: It really was great. Just sitting out practices was mentally draining because you want to be out there working with your teammates, your friends and doing everything with them. You want to be out there on Saturdays having fun. When you sit on the sidelines, it's hard emotionally being out there. Being out there now and going to work, even on the hard days, is rewarding.
How much better than did that second Big Ten championship ring feel because you played a bigger part in the defense's success?
Muldoon: For sure. I played enough my redshirt freshman year where I felt I earned it, too. Last year I felt like more of a contributor. My redshirt freshman year I went in to give J.J. breathers as a second string guy, but J.J. never took a play off. I was a second string guy last year, but I was splitting reps and felt I was contributing more.
Charlie Partridge says the defensive line might be as deep as it was last year. It's still early, but do you feel you have the potential to have nine quality guys rotating in and you can be a more productive unit?
Muldoon: I felt we did a good job last year, but we can learn from the experiences from last year. The six or seven guys that got experience last year can improve off of that and the young guys can definitely step up. I think we can be as deep or deeper as last year, and hopefully the top guys can produce more than they did.
Talk about your winter conditioning and how you developed your body to get to the point where you are in better shape than you were last season?
Muldoon: Mentally I had to come in with the mindset to work hard every day, get my nutrition right and let my body recover so I could be ready for the next day of lifting. I worked hard in the weight room and made some gains. I didn't gain weight, but I felt I came out leaner and a lot stronger than I did coming in. I played last season around 258, and I am around 260, 261 right now.
You are about the same weight but you say you are leaner. Can you feel it when you go through drills that your body reacts differently?
Muldoon: I just feel more explosive and faster. I feel I can get out and run more. That's probably partially due to getting the legs completely healthy, but I feel I can stride better and plant harder.
Is the knee injury completely in your past or does it come up from time to time?
Muldoon: I think it's completely in the past. I had some tendinitis from it last year. Other than that, everything is gone. I feel healthy. The big thing last year was dislocating my elbow and having to come back from that.
Can you talk about what you have done in spring that you are happy with and what else you need to work on before the season?
Muldoon: I am just happy with how hard I have been working to get the new techniques down. I have improved my pass rush, but that's still an area that I need to improve. I need to make more plays in the backfield and increase my productivity level, because I like to play at a high level. The goal is to get more plays in the backfield. I am hoping to gain five pounds during the summer and get close to 270, but the big thing is work on technique. That's what defensive line is all about.
Who is the leader of your group?
Muldoon: Right now, I don't know if there is per se a leader. Everyone works hard. I think when Chris Borland is out there he definitely commands the huddle well. Everyone is well respected out there and anyone will step up in the time of need to say something to get the guys going.