Nose guards lead Badgers into Champaign

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, October 19, 2013

One was built to play on the interior of the defensive line.

Big and burly, he weighed more than 300 pounds when he arrived at Wisconsin in 2010.

The other was built to play on the edge.

His shoulders were broad, but he weighed a svelte 230 pounds when he arrived at UW that same year.

Today, Beau Allen and Warren Herring are the top two nose guards on a unit ranked in the top five in the Big Ten in four major defensive categories.

“We’re pretty lucky to have two of the better nose guards around,” fifth-year senior defensive end Ethan Hemer said, “and as the season goes on I think we’ll see more and more production come out of that position.”

The next test comes at 7 p.m. Saturday, when UW (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) faces host Illinois (3-2, 0-1).

Allen is tied for third among the team’s linemen in tackles (12), has 11/2 sacks and a fumble recovery. Herring has 10 tackles and leads the team in sacks (3.0) and tackles for loss (41/2).

Both Allen (6 feet 3 inches and 325 pounds) and Herring (6-3, 294) have played key roles on the interior in helping keep linemen from reaching UW’s linebackers. Herring has given UW’s pass rush a boost. Their efforts will be key against an Illinois team that is fifth in the Big Ten in total offense (457.2 yards per game) and sixth in points (36.0).

UW coach Gary Andersen at different times this season has lauded the work of both players.

“If you sit back and watch the tape, that’s a big-time game out of Beau Allen,” he said after Allen recorded four tackles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the loss at Arizona State. “He was active. He was physical. He played a bunch of reps….

“But if he plays like that, he’s going to have an opportunity to move on and play at the next level. And it’s important to him. It is a goal that he set.”

Herring recorded two sacks and three total tackles in UW’s loss at Ohio State.

“I’m fired up on the direction he’s headed,” Andersen said. “But he’s taking the coaching. I think his technique has improved. Now his athleticism is moving forward because of that.”

Allen estimates he lost about 10 pounds in the off-season to improve his overall quickness and pass rush.

Herring has been adding weight since he arrived on campus.

“I think I’ve gained about 60 to 70 pounds since I’ve been here,” he said.

Herring remembers that during his first weight-lifting session older players looked at his frame and predicted a move inside.

“I’m thinking, a collegiate D tackle at my size?” Herring recalled. “No. I’m going to be an end off the edge, fast.”

After gaining about 40 pounds during his first two years in the program, Herring was moved to tackle.

“All I could say was, they were right,” he said, laughing. “And all they could say was, ‘We told you so.’

“I’ve been growing into my body ever since.”

Both players share one obvious trait. They have engaging personalities.

Allen loves his flowing locks and reveled in the fact that linebacker Chris Borland, who has a good view of Allen’s backside on most plays, noted Allen has the best butt in the Big Ten.

“Maybe even in the state of Wisconsin,” Allen crowed. “Maybe all of America.

“I’d be on the All-Big Ten butt team. I think I would be first team. That is just my humble opinion.”

Herring’s locker room dance moves, including the splits, are legendary. “I’ve still got it,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of moves.”

Allen brokered a deal with Borland before the season. Each time Borland recorded a tackle for loss or made a noteworthy play as a result of Allen occupying multiple blockers, Borland would deliver candy to his larger teammate.

Allen was the recent recipient of some Trolli, which produces gummy candies, marshmallows and soft licorice gums.

“It is a good gig,” Allen said. “I like it a lot.”

Allen has tweeted about his love of Trolli. That resulted in @Trolli_USA tweeting to Allen a picture of a gummy worm in a football uniform.

“It was weird, but I thought it was awesome,” Allen said. “That made my week. That might be a season-defining moment for me.”

Not for Herring.

“I’m not a candy guy,” he said, rubbing his midsection. “I’m gaining weight but I’m trying to look good with it, too.”

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