July 28: Quarterbacks
July 29: Running backs
July 30: Receivers
July 31: Tight ends
Aug 1: Offensive Linemen
Today: Defensive linemen
Aug. 3: Linebackers
Aug. 4: Defensive backs
Aug. 5: Specialists
Key backups: Tyler Dippel (Redshirt Senior), Warren Herring (Redshirt Junior), Bryce Gilbert (Redshirt Junior), Konrad Zagzebski (Redshirt Junior), James Adeyanju (Redshirt Sophomore), Jake Keefer (Redshirt Sophomore)
Departed Players: David Gilbert (transfer)
Bringing in new coaches has been a theme this offseason for the Badgers. With a new defensive coordinator in Dave Aranda, the coaching staff is implementing a new 3-4 defense that Aranda is confident in with his Wisconsin personnel.
"They've been really welcomed to it," Aranda said in the spring. "I think they like blitzing, stunting and doing different things."
This confidence comes from the amount of experience on the defensive side of the ball. The three projected starters are all seniors and have plenty of experience at the collegiate level. With 56 career starts between the three of them, Allen (37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last season), Hemer (24 tackles and a sack) and Muldoon (15 tackles and 5.5 TFL) know how to disrupt offenses as well as teach the youth on defense how to be successful and, hopefully, create more turnovers.
Wisconsin tied for 105th in the country with just 15 turnovers last season, a remarkably low number. Of the 15 teams that forced 15 or fewer turnovers last season, only two – Ball State and Texas Tech – played in a bowl game, and all the teams had a combined record of 51-131 (.280 winning percentage).
Depth won't be an issue with UW's defense this season; a credit that goes to former defensive line coach Charlie Partridge developing a deep rotation. Herring (13 tackles), Dippel (20 tackles, five sacks), Gilbert (10 tackles) and Zagzebski (four tackles) all played last season and should rotate into the line.
"It's going to be great competition," said Herring. "We have great camaraderie, but it's a competition. Everyone wants to play."
With coaching changes throughout the entire team, the defensive line is no different. The addition of Coach Chad Kauha'aha'a brings in a coaching philosophy based off of toughness and being the toughest guy out there.
"High intensity, high energy, and keeps all the guys live … He wants us to keep high intensity at all times when we are on the field," said Herring. "He is a great coach… we are getting better every day."
Burning Question: Will the change to 3-4 affect the players much?
The players went through the transition and the minor headaches in the spring, but the fact that Wisconsin has plenty of experience players means any curve balls the UW coaches throw into the scheme during the fall will be handled in stride. If anything, the 3-4 defense is going to make UW an even better defense, as the defensive front was stagnate last season.
Biggest Strength: Experience at each position. The projected starters are all seniors that have had plenty of game experience. The top three players at each position all have games under their belt, as well, which gives the coaching staff confidence each game.
Biggest Problem Area: Forcing turnovers. The defensive line lacked the aggressiveness and constant pressure on opposing offenses to help force turnovers last season. With the occasional fumble recovery, it is not enough to be an elite defensive line. Hopefully Coach Kauha'aha'a's high intensity philosophy will extend to his players.
Final Thought: This defensive line has the capability to be phenomenal with the new 3-4 look. The experience is not lacking and the coaching staff is excited to be able to exploit that. The defense will look for the seniors to be the leaders and have their experience rub off on the younger lineman. If the line stays away from injuries, they will exceed all expectations.