Fast Leaning Propels Hemer

Ethan Hemer (UW Athletics)

Less than two years after coming to Wisconsin with no technique and no chance to move a big offensive lineman, redshirt sophomore Ethan Hemer not only has fought his way into the rotation, but enters the 2011 season as a key player on Wisconsin's deep defensive line.

MADISON – Three Fall seasons ago, Ethan Hemer was told at the snap of the ball to run full out and tackle the ball carrier. Two seasons ago, Hemer was picking himself up off the Camp Randall turf. Last season, Hemer was showing tremendous strides in technique and finishing. This month, Hemer is preparing to be a part of one of the deepest and talent-rich defensive lines co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge has ever had at his disposal.

"I guess you could say I am a fast learner," Hemer said.

Hemer was a first-team all-state selection and team captain as a senior, but the most coaching he got was being told to just go hard as soon as the ball was snapped.

"I was on a small team and I was just told to line up and get the quarterback," Hemer said. "There wasn't a lot of game planning of fixing of stances. Coaches didn't have time for that. There are only so many hours in the day to give to football, so it's hard to take time and work on every little thing."

Imagine his surprise when he started lining up against guys like John Moffitt and Bill Nagy, experience interior linemen with superb footwork and upper body strength. Looking back, Hemer doesn't think he moved those guys an inch,.

"I was getting rolled by these big offensive linemen and it's all because I had no technique," Hemer said. "I didn't know about it."

Still, he made it on the field after his redshirt season by absorbing the coaching, the competition from the other young defensive tackles and putting in the extra effort in the film room, watching his practices and the practices of older players like Patrick Butrym, Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle.

Living what Partridge preached resulted in Hemer playing all 13 games last season, including starting the last six, and finishing with 21 tackles (10 solos) and .5 tackles for loss. Most young players with raw technique have to wait a couple seasons before having the maturity to fine tune their game to the point where they can contribute on the field.

In Hemer's case, it was a combination of his hard-working mentality, and solid coaching by Partridge.

"Coach Partridge totally changed my style of play coming out of high school and installing in me a mindset that really emphasizing the technique," Hemer said. "In our world, if you step out of place by an inch, you are beat. I have really learned to respect that and try and live that."

Hemer had scholarships to Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, Miami (OH), South Dakota State and a lot of other smaller schools. When the opportunity presented itself to come and walk-on at Wisconsin, Hemer figured he'd have a chance to prove himself.

"When you are a kid and you are watching Wisconsin football, you have the dream and the aspirations of wanting to play there," he said. "When you get older and you think about maybe playing college football and then the opportunity comes, it's a big opportunity that a lot of kids don't want to miss. When Wisconsin kids get it, they jump on top of that."

Thanks to the Wisconsin natives (Hemer, seniors Butrym and Louis Nzegwu, former Badger defensive end J.J. Watt and younger contributors like Tyler Dippel and Jordan Kohout), it's easy to see why Wisconsin's defensive line produces year in and year out. In 2010, the Badgers led the conference in run defense and ranked fifth nationally, allowing an average of 88.2 yards per game and not allowing a conference team to rush for 100 yards against them. They also tied for the conference lead ant tied for 10th nationally in sacks with 37.

On their run to their first conference championship in 11 years, Wisconsin's opponents scored just seven rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth-fewest in the country during the regular season. Wisconsin also allowed just 202 first downs, second-fewest in the Big Ten and 14th-fewest in the country.

Heading into last season, the defensive line had to answer questions about how it was going to replace Schofield. This year's group faces the same question, although the name has been changed from O'Brien to J.J. If last season's production is any inclination, the question has already been answered.

"J.J. is such an awesome talent and nobody can replace him, but what we have are guys as a whole that can replace J.J.," Hemer said. "We have Pat Muldoon, Dippel, David Gilbert, a bunch of guys that are willing to step up and take on that workload. I think the experience of last year is going to help young guys like me, Kohout, Beau Allen, because we've seen it and we know that.

"We just have to build on that and we can't ever be satisfied with where we were."

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