It's a role that takes a special kind of talent, and a position that has allowed senior Beau Allen to come full circle in his career.
"I love it," said Allen. "It's the best of both words really. When you get old like me, a senior with only a couple games left, you look back on your career, and it's been nice. To have the system we had with coach (Charlie) Partridge and coach (Bret) Bielema to transitioning to a new coaching staff with new teaching styles, technique and a new system has been fun."
Watching Allen play the zero-technique, it would appear the position was designed with him in mind. Individual stats aren't indicative to how valuable Allen has been to Wisconsin's defense through the first 10 games. While he has 17 tackles on the season, Allen's work in the trenches has allowed in part Chris Borland to have 80 tackles, Michael Caputo to have 58, Ethan Armstrong to have 40 and so on.
Against BYU, Allen had zero tackles, but graded out in the positive – around the 94 percentile - in the technique, assignment, hustle and other categories by the Wisconsin coaching staff.
"I definitely am playing better football than I have before," said Allen. "You don't rack up a lot of stats playing nose tackle. It's all about what you put on tape and having good reps."
It's a position he thrived in during his high school career at Minnetonka, just on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, where he was a four-star athlete and received scholarship from all over the country, including Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Stanford. Being 300-plus pounds at the high school level, Allen simply ran over people without much refinement.
"I was just bigger than guys," said Allen. "I didn't care about technique. I just did whatever and made plays off of it. I kind of wish that was the case now."
After his career at Wisconsin finished in 2007 and before he became a graduate assistant at 2010, Ben Strickland spent one season coaching the defensive backs at Minnetonka High School, and watched Allen slowly progress from being "a freak with no technique" from a far.
"He was fairly raw at the high school level, but he was a big strong kid you knew was talented and who was going to do special things at the next level," said Strickland.
One of two seniors in his class who never redshirted, Allen admitted he was pressed into the duty because of a lack of depth in the middle of the line. That meant him and Partridge went through a lot of practice sessions that were focused solely on improving technique.
"I felt I was in fine shape, weighing about 320 pounds on my first day of summer weight in, but my technique was bad," said Allen. "I developed bad techniques throughout high school. Coach Partridge was a huge technician and big on fundamentals, so we did footwork every single day, doing hundreds of reps before and after practice together."
Those reps paid off during Wisconsin's Rose Bowl runs. After registered 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a sophomore, Allen started all 14 games last season and set career highs in tackles (37) and tackles for loss (7.5) while added 2.5 sacks. It was work that's prepared him for the 3-4.
Allen wasn't the only play that had to go through a drastic position change this offseason. Brendan Kelly needed to condition himself to get faster as he moved from defensive end to an outside linebacker role and Ethan Hemer, one of Allen's closest friends on the team, had to drop over 20 pounds to move from defensive tackle to defense end.
Even though he was going to take on multiple blockers this season, Allen trimmed his weight from 333 pounds at the 2013 Rose Bowl to 320 in order to be more mobile. He also had surgery on his left ankle following the season, which allowed him to rest during spring ball and get mentally prepared for his new position.
And with a dose or irony, Allen doesn't need to worry about fundamentals as much as he needs to clog up running lanes.
"It's a difficult position," said Allen of nose tackle. "You're not going to get a ton of production but it's still a crucial position on the defensive line and the defense. So you have to take pride in it."
He's also taken pride in the fact that he's proven to the NFL scouts watching that he's versatile enough to fit in a variety of defenses at the next level.
"I think that definitely increases your value," said Allen. "The more versatile you are the better."
Allen calls this weekend's game at Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) "big" for him for a number of reasons. For starters the Gophers run a pro-style offense, an offense that is more suited for Allen to be on the field and make plays against. He's also plans to have plenty of family members in the stands to celebrate his final college football game in his home state.
"I only live 20 minutes away from the University of Minnesota, so it's going to be fun for me," said Allen. "It's nice to play one of the final games of my career there."