Dave Aranda reportedly turned down jobs at California and Texas Tech in order to join Gary Andersen after he took the head coaching job at Wisconsin. A Broyles Award candidate for the top college football assistant coach in the nation last season at Utah State, Aranda was a key factor in the Aggies' 11-2 record in 2012.
And it's on the defensive side of the ball where Wisconsin fans will likely see the biggest change under Andersen, who replaced Bret Bielema in December. Aranda's defensive philosophies revolve around a 3-4 scheme, which the Badgers began implementing during spring camp. That's very different from the 4-3 used by both Dave Doeren and Chris Ash during their time in Madison.
With the 2013 season just weeks away, BadgerBlitz.com examines where every defensive member on the current roster could potentially fit in Aranda's attack.
Note: This is a very basic look. Aranda will likely implement multiple looks and fronts that this report will not be able to reflect at this time.
This is arguably the most important position in a 3-4. The nose guard is relied upon to shut down run gaps and eat up blockers in order for linebackers to make plays. The type of player targeted for this position is generally bigger and stronger than a tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Beau Allen appears to be a good fit and should ease the transition in Aranda's first year.
While a 4-3 defensive end is often asked to get to the quarterback, an end for Aranda is relied upon to eat up blockers and command double teams, much like the nose guard. Ethan Hemer played tackle during his first two seasons as a starter, but he's dropped weight and has ideal height to bump over to end this season.
Projected 2014 commits and targets: Billy Hirschfeld, Conor Sheehy, Armon Watts, Claude Pelon, among others
Defensive end (weak-side)
The opposite end in a 3-4 lines up on the weak-side of the ball, or the side without the tight end. Pat Muldoon and Konrad Zagzebski should be good fits at this position, with James Adeyanju a solid third option.
This is a position or type of player Wisconsin really targeted in the 2013 class. This is an athlete who can play with his hand in the ground or work standing up with the ability to either rush the quarterback or drop into coverage. Expect the staff to continue to target this type of player in each class moving forward. (This position is not reflected in the base 3-4 picture.)
The strong-side middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and will often diagnosis offenses while making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. His production will be a reflection of how well the line eats up blockers in front of him. Chris Borland appears to be an ideal fit.
Projected mike linebackers: Chris Borland, Derek Landisch, Garret Dooley, Ben Ruechel and Chasen Andersen
Projected 2014 commits and targets: Dominic Cizauskas
The weak-side middle linebacker will line up on the side of the ball that does not have the tight end. Much like the mike backer, the will is asked to make a lot of plays in space but also occupy fullbacks and tight ends in order for the mike to make tackles.
Projected 2014 commits and targets: Greg Gooch, among others
Strong-side outside linebacker
This position requires a versatile athlete who can both cover a tight end and play with his hand in the ground in a four-man front. Brendan Kelly and Tyler Dippel, both of whom have played their entire career at defensive end, are projected to make the switch.
Weak-side outside linebacker
This is the true pass-rushing specialist in the defense. Look for the "hybrids" to fill this role as well. Vince Biegel should be an exciting player to watch at this spot.
Projected 2014 commits and targets: Serge Trezy, among others
The free safety is the center fielder or last line of defense. Not a huge difference from their role in a 4-3. Dezmen Southward provides experience and leadership to Wisconsin's secondary.
Projected free safeties: Dezmen Southward, Jeffrey Lewis, Isaiah Williams, Nate Hammon, Keelon Brookins, Joe Ferguson
Projected 2014 commits and targets: Austin Hudson, among others
The strong safety can do a bit of everything: cover, support in the run and attack off the edge in blitz packages. This is also where the "star" position could draw from, an athlete Aranda feels is a hybrid safety/linebacker. This is also a position where a lot of questions still stand this fall after Reggie Mitchell's transfer and Donnell Vercher not being admitted to UW.
Projected strong safeties: Michael Trotter, Leo Musso, Michael Caputo, Kyle Zuleger, Jerry Ponio and Matt Hubley
Projected 2014 commits and targets: D'Cota Dixon, D.J. Copeland, Andre Godfrey, Lubern Figaro and Khalia Hackett, among others
Not a ton of difference for the cornerbacks, though Aranda will likely ask this group to be more aggressive than in years past. Expect them to press and be physical at the line of scrimmage with enough speed to make up ground/recover if needed.
Projected cornerbacks: Peniel Jean, Darius Hillary, Sojourn Shelton, T.J. Reynard, Devin Gaulden, Hugs Etienne, Terrance Floyd, Dare Ogunbowale and Jakarrie Washington