That's right folks... All the silly off-season talk and banter is about to come to a close as football season is right around the corner. Yesterday we debuted our Fall Camp preview called "Camping with the Badgers" with a look at the defensive backs for Wisconsin and today we're sticking on the defensive side of the ball as we look into one of the more intriguing positions on the field, the Linebackers. So, let's start building that fire and talk some Badger Linebackers, shall we?
OLB: Mike Taylor (RS Sr., 6'2", 222lbs.)
MLB: Chris Borland (Rs Jr., 5'11", 250lbs.)
OLB: Ethan Armstrong/AJ Fenton/Connor O'Neil/Vince Biegel
Thoughts on the Unit:
Simply put, this could be the deepest and most talented unit on the team, let alone the defense. Mike Taylor and Chris Borland have garnered multiple pre-season award watch list honors and multiple pre-season all-American awards as well. But it's also a position that has a bit of mystery to it as Ethan Armstrong, the expected starter at the other linebacking spot is coming off of a major hip surgery.
There's no denying he's got big time potential, but in his absence this spring the Badgers were able to work in both A.J. Fenton and Connor O'Neil and by all indications they were very solid. Derek Landisch could be an option there, but the sophomore is being groomed to become the replacement to Mike Taylor after this season and may likely stay on that side of the group.
Fenton brings great speed, something that this unit could use more of after seeing it get torched by the Ducks time and again in the Rose Bowl. (I'm still having nightmares at times, aren't you?) While O'Neil is freakishly strong and could be the hard hitting presence that would add to an already hard-nosed group of linebackers.
No matter what happens this fall camp, the battle for that outside linebacker position is going to be one fun thing to watch in camp, that's for sure.
3 Big Questions Facing This Group:
1) Who Starts Alongside Taylor and Borland?
- This is the million dollar question on the defensive side of the ball. Sure there are issues to answer up front too, but they at least have the starters as a known quantity entering camp. If Armstrong is healthy look for him to have the inside edge but it's no guarantee that he'll be the starter come Sept. 1st against Northern Iowa and we may not know the answer until after that game.
2) Can Borland and Taylor keep up their play from 2011?
- 2011 was a season we've never seen from a single linebacker, let alone two in the history of Wisconsin football. So, can we expect more of the same from these guys? They either topped or were around the 150 tackle last season and those are numbers that aren't easy to obtain. Add in the fact that while they stayed healthy last season, it's been the only season they've been able to do it together, so that has to be in the back of our minds too.
3) Can Vince Biegel make an impact in his freshman year?
- Biegel was one of the top rated recruits in the 2012 class and his talent could see him compete for playing time and possibly even into the mix for a starting spot. If camp goes well and he adjusts to the college game quickly don't be surprised to see him make a significant impact in his freshman season.
Others to Watch:
Make no mistake the group below would find themselves starting or at the very least in a competition to start just about anywhere else in the Big Ten, just so you have an idea of how deep this group is.
Derek Landisch (So., 5'11", 226lbs.): Landisch was good enough to be the main guy behind Taylor last season and saw some good action. He also was a standout this spring and could well be the next great outside linebacker at Wisconsin, so keep an eye on his play during camp should anything happen to Taylor.
Marcus Trotter (RS So., 6'0", 222lbs.): He's the backup behind Chris Borland and he's also been one of the more impressive players during the past two spring camps, so should something, god forbid, happen to Borland Trotter is more than capable of making as smooth a transition as possible.
Jake Keefer (RS Fr., 6'3", 232lbs.): This is a complete sleeper name, but watch for him to possibly put himself in the mix for playing time. He's one of the bigger linebackers the Badgers have, but he's also one of the more athletic ones as well. He could see his stock rise even more with a very good fall camp.
Don't forget to check us out on Twitter @MTBadgers for the latest breaking news and opinions on all things Badgers. You can also find my musing on all things college sports and more by hitting me up @andycoppens and let's remember to always be #KeepingItBucky