With Beau Allen gone, redshirt senior and three-year backup Warren Herring steps in at nose guard. He has the explosiveness, girth and experience to excel in the role for the Wisconsin Badgers.
By Jesse TempleFOX Sports Wisconsin
Wisconsin Badgers beat writer Jesse Temple will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Badgers' success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team's 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player's position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
Herring has spent three seasons as a reserve, but now it's finally his time to step in and take the place of Beau Allen as the team's starting nose guard. Herring, a 6-foot-3, 294-pound, redshirt senior, has the explosiveness, girth and experience to excel in his new role.
In three seasons, Herring played in 35 games with one start. And a year ago, he nearly split reps with Allen, even if he wasn't officially a starter. The nose guard position doesn't rack up a ton of stats in Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense, but Herring makes his presence felt by drawing double teams to free up his teammates to tee off on quarterbacks and running backs.
Last season, Herring finished the year with 17 tackles, including six tackles for a loss, and tied for second on the team with four sacks. Those numbers should increase considerably as Herring earns more playing time. But the stats aren't as important as Herring simply doing his job and opening holes for defensive ends Chikwe Obasih and Konrad Zagzebski, among others.
Herring began his career at Wisconsin as a defensive end, so his ceiling as a nose guard is pretty high. And if he continues to improve as he did in 2013, it will bode well for the Badgers.
A year ago, Herring showed flashes of the type of player he's capable of becoming. In the biggest regular-season game of the year against Ohio State, for example, he tallied three tackles and sacked quarterback Braxton Miller twice. One of his biggest plays of the season came when Ohio State faced a third-and-4 from Wisconsin's 28-yard line in the fourth quarter. Herring chased down Miller for a loss of seven yards and forced the Buckeyes out of field goal range.
What would they do without him?
There are two other nose guards listed on the roster: Bryce Gilbert and Arthur Goldberg. Neither, of course, have the experience that Herring brings to the table. While Goldberg is still relatively new to the program as a redshirt sophomore, Gilbert has played in 25 games and recorded 20 tackles.
Given that Herring played in a rotation with Allen a year ago, expect to see Gilbert in game situations in 2014 as well. Wisconsin's nose guard rotation will be at its best with Herring leading the charge.