Weight Transfer

For seniors Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon, the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense for Wisconsin this season required more than just a change of technique.

MADISON - As senior defensive linemen Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon first started flipping through the installations of Wisconsin's new 3-4 defense, both came to the same conclusion early on.

"It seemed like quite a bit to start," said Hemer.

The 4-3 defense, which Wisconsin has run for ages, is predicated on gap assignment, making the plays when the play comes to your assigned area. The 3-4 has made players do more stunting, blitzing and allow more freedom to get into the backfield.

That's perfect for Wisconsin, which struggled to generate turnovers and defensive pressure in the backfield last season, but the adjustment was going to be more than just a shift here and there. A great deal of the work would have to be done in the kitchen.

"They told him he had to slim down and that I had to bulk up," said Muldoon, with a smile. "We just switched our diets."

When both players reported for camp, it was almost as if they have morphed into the same body type.

After weighing 320 at his heaviest in order to clog up the middle of opposing offensive lines, Hemer reported this fall at 285 pounds so he can be better suited to play the 3-technique. The last time Hemer weighed that little was when he was a redshirt freshman being told he needed to add weight.

"I feel better about myself and how I play," said Hemer. "I feel a lot faster when I have my pads on."

Muldoon had to make his change because he's going to be lining up over a tackle instead of a tight end in Wisconsin's new alignment, meaning he would add 20 pounds to take on an approximate 80 extra pounds in the pass rushing game.

"It's advantage because you aren't going against a guy as fast," he said, "but you can't weight 250 pounds and take on a tackle and a guard at the same time."

Progressively adding the weight following strength coach Evan Simon's plan, Muldoon slowly started to see the results of his workouts and extra meals. With the strength staff setting a goal weight for each player over the summer, Muldoon didn't feel pressured to put on the weight all at once, even though he's put a lot of pressure on himself this season.

"I feel a sense of urgency and I think I have had one of my best summers," said Muldoon, who hit his 270-pound goal weight by hitting his numbers weekly. "I really feel the change being faster and stronger. A lot of the upperclassmen really set the tone and the urgency for what's going to happen this year."

The aggressive tone the defense has taken in camp has showed. Throwing a lot of different looks and schemes at the offense to prepare themselves, the Badgers' defense has dominated through the majority of team drills, throwing different stunts and pressures from unorthodox areas of the field that have kept UW's offense guessing.

"I think the defense allows the second level to move around and be a little bit freer, but at the same time we love the freedom we've got," said Hemer. "The ideas are still the same. You still have your gap and you make plays there, but you also have a secondary gap you make plays through. There is so much more movement and stunting that you are going the extra mile.

"I think we've definitely grown with our knowledge of the 3-4 and what coach Aranda wants to do with it. The spring was a learning curve with guys getting a feel for it and getting used to the new things we were going to be trying. In the fall we've really attacked it and made some big strides in that department."

While other positions will spend the next 10 days trying to hammer out who their starters will be, Hemer and Muldoon continue to rotate with fellow senior Tyler Dippel at the two 3-technique defensive end spots.

While the group has competed fiercely in past fall camps, this one continues to be different.

"Going into most seasons there's always a competition, and that sometimes build bad feelings," said Muldoon. "The three of us are rotating at the two end spots and since we've been working together for four years and we're really good friends, we're all helping each other out and trying to get each other to do our best. There's no ill will between any of us."

For a group that saw how volatile transition can be when they first arrived, this group has jumped into the 3-4 scheme and their diets head first, leaving nothing to chance.

"Our senior class is pretty big, and we've seen a lot," Hemer said. "We came in during a transition. The program just went 7-6 and we saw what it took to transition the program back to a winning team. Because of that, we know what it takes because we've had so much success the last three years."

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