All great duos deserve a nickname, but the one for University of Wisconsin junior defensive tackles Ethan Hemer and Beau Allen remains a work in progress.

Allen offered up a few tried-and-true possibilities this week, including the cosmetic, "Salt-'n'-Pepper" — a nod to Allen's blond locks and Hemer's dark hair; the culinary "Peanut Butter and Jelly;" and the old standby, "Thunder and Lightning."

"We like to mess around," Allen said, not sounding totally convinced. "We know we're bigger guys. Right now we're calling ourselves 'Thunder and Lightning.' "

The only novel thing about that overused sports nickname is the 335-pound Allen is the "Lightning," while the 319-pound Hemer is the "Thunder."

Then again, maybe that's a good place to start with this duo, given neither is totally what you would expect.

They have been the most consistent parts of a defense still searching for consistency going into Saturday's game against Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium.

Coach Bret Bielema called Hemer and Allen UW's best defensive tackle combination since Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson were seniors in 2004, Bielema's first year as defensive coordinator.

Good defenses have to be strong in the middle and it starts with the tackles, as well as middle linebacker Chris Borland.

"Any time you've got two good defensive tackles (and) you've got a good mike linebacker, you've got a chance to be good," defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. "That's the way we're built right now."

Hemer and Allen's contributions to the defense can't be measured in statistics. Through five games, Hemer has 12 tackles and one-half tackle for loss, although he has broken up three passes. Allen has 10 tackles, including three TFLs, a sack, a breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Against Nebraska last week, Allen played 71 snaps and had two tackles. But when he and Hemer are doing their jobs, taking on double teams and plugging the middle, they give the linebackers clear lanes to the ball carrier.

Weakside linebacker Mike Taylor leads the Badgers with 55 tackles and Borland is second with 43.

Hemer and Allen are more than just run pluggers. They have been getting good push as pass rushers, despite just one sack between them.

Junior defensive end Pat Muldoon estimated there have been 15 passes this season of which Hemer or Allen didn't get credit for a sack but made the quarterback get rid of the ball early or alter what he wanted to do.

"They've both been having great seasons, even though in the media it's a little quieter and doesn't always show up in the stats," Muldoon said. "They're often commanding double teams or collapsing the pocket."

They also make something of an odd couple, which could be another nickname possibility.

Allen was heavily recruited, a four-star recruit out of Minnetonka, Minn., who has the work ethic of a walk-on.

"A lot of times, highly recruited guys don't have the drive," defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. "Beau's drive is second to nobody on the team."

Hemer is a former walk-on from Medford who has the physical skills of a scholarship player.

"I think he's kind of tricky," Allen said. "On pass rush stuff, I feel like what I'm going to do is a little more cut and dried. ... Hemer tries to get in your mind and play with you that way. I like to think he's wily. He messes with our O-linemen a lot in one-on-ones."

Despite some initial reservations, the two get along famously and have become fast friends. Allen was admittedly "chubby" when he played as a true freshman in 2010.

"I thought, 'Boy, this guy can't be very athletic, this guy can't do anything,' " Hemer said. "But then he gets on the pads and he does some good things. It's like, 'OK, this guy's a respectable player.' "

Hemer, who was redshirted his first year in 2009, is long and lanky and is teased by Allen for his long torso.

"When I first got here, I was like, 'This is the lankiest kid, with the biggest torso ever. How is he a football player?' " Allen said.

They were not paired together much last season, when Allen played more with Jordan Kohout, who has since been forced to give up football for medical reasons. But since Hemer and Allen began starting together this season, they have complemented each other extremely well.

"We communicate well," Hemer said. "We've been playing together for so long now we kind of know what the other one is doing and how to cover for each other."

They also bring some energy and goofiness to the defensive line. If Hemer senses a lull in practice, he will sometimes start screaming almost non-sensical things, with Allen quick to chime in.

"They're both really fun, but in their own unique way," Muldoon said. "Hemer is hard to describe, it's a goofier sense of humor. Beau is more sarcastic and loud. Beau enjoys the attention."

Now, if someone could just come up with a better nickname, maybe they would both get the attention they deserve.

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(1) comment


Here's an example of a player who didn't waste 2-3 yrs as a developmental redshirt player.
Allen played early and is now ready.

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