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Wisconsin's 3-4 defense: How versatile can it be?

Moving away from the 4-3 base defense provides the Badgers with more options when matching up against Big Ten offenses.


It's no secret there's great anticipation surrounding Saturday's debut of Wisconsin's new 3-4 defensive scheme.

One of the intriguing characteristics of this new defense is the versatility it supposedly provides. As opposed to the team's former defense -- the 4-3 scheme -- the 3-4 setup provides the coaching staff with more flexibility in terms of where to line players up and the positions they play. But while most of the attention paid to UW has been focused on the players' transition to a new system, the coaching staff has been forced to make adjustments of its own.

The Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Oates provided some insight the other day into the transition of the defensive scheme for Andersen and his coaching staff:

"We didn’t have those eight kids up front [at Utah State] and been able to rotate those young men through like we’re going to be able to do," Andersen said. "There are some tweaks. There’s some zone coverages that are a little bit different that are still very solid and fit our personnel a little bit better. And we’re playing four (men) down a lot."

Andersen pointed out that outside linebacker Brendan Kelly, at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, allows him to switch easily to a four-man line, an option he didn’t always have at Utah State, where Kelly’s counterpart might have been 6-2 and 215. Andersen will need size in the Big Ten, where several teams run spread offenses but most still employ a power running game.

The Badgers may not have the ideal current setup for the new defense -- particularly with their lack of secondary depth -- but it's going to be exciting following the adjustments Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda make with this defense and how they tinker with them from week-to-week.

It's largely a more complicated approach to defense than a base 4-3 scheme, but it provides a wide variety of options which should be fun to watch. And as Andersen mentioned with the defensive front in particular, he'll have more defensive packages to toy with by having more players at his arsenal than at he did at Utah State.

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