Badgers’ D’ sorely misses Borland
Coach Bret Bielema said Monday that linebacker Chris Borland is out at least a week, and that they’ll continue discussions about a medical redshirt for the sophomore if Borland’s shoulder injury lingers.
“We’re only going to put him out there if it’s in his best interest,” Bielema said.
Borland was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year last season, but he hurt his left shoulder again on Saturday in the 11th-ranked Badgers’ 20-19 victory over Arizona State.
“Everybody said to me last week, ‘I’m excited to see 44 back.’ Well, I was excited to see 44 back, but he also has some intangibles that go way beyond football,” Bielema said. “Chris’ personality, the character of the person he is, he would be a definite loss.”
Borland had offseason surgery to repair torn cartilage in the same shoulder, but aggravated the injury against UNLV and missed Wisconsin’s victory over San Jose State.
Borland made a big play that likely saved a touchdown against Arizona State, but he hurt the shoulder on a diving arm tackle that tripped up running back Cameron Marshall midway through the first quarter. He left the field holding his left arm awkwardly and did not return.
After the game, Borland said he’d listen to his own body even over the advice of the doctors. Bielema said he planned to meet with Borland later Monday to see how he was doing.
It’s one of many injuries the Badgers have had to deal with during their seventh consecutive 3-0 start to the season. On offense, wide receiver Nick Toon (turf toe) missed his second game and return specialist David Gilreath (concussion) and starting right tackle Josh Oglesby (left knee) didn’t play on Saturday.
Borland’s loss—be it for just this week’s game against FCS opponent Austin Peay or the season—will be a big blow to a group that allowed just one touchdown against Arizona State and has been steadily improving.
Bielema said they have until the halfway point of the season to decide whether to ask the NCAA for a medical redshirt.
Borland’s athleticism and flexibility allows him to be the centerpiece in the defensive alignment Wisconsin calls the Badger package, which features three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs.
In the grouping, Borland can pressure the quarterback as an additional rusher or drop into coverage on a tight end or running back.
Wisconsin most often uses the alignment in third-and-long situations and Borland’s versatility allows the Badgers to hide how they plan to bring pressure. Bielema said defensive end David Gilbert, who was limited in Saturday’s game because he wasn’t cleared for practice until Thursday because of a concussion, is the leading choice to assume Borland’s role in the package.
“I don’t foresee Chris being in this week’s game plan, so we go back to David as well as a couple of other candidates that we’ve looked at for the position Chris currently holds, including Mike Taylor,” Bielema said.
Taylor also has been working his way back from injury after tearing a ligament in his right knee last year against Iowa and missing the UNLV game this year.
Bielema said Taylor looked like he was more confident in his second game back.
“Mike basically made the comment (to the trainer) that he felt good during the game,” Bielema said. “I think that was a big game for him to get through mentally.”
Even without Borland, Wisconsin has a deep linebacking group that includes seniors Blake Sorensen and Culmer St. Jean, junior Kevin Claxton and freshmen Ethan Armstrong and A.J. Fenton. After Borland went out early against Arizona State, he was impressed with the defense’s resolve and thinks it will continue.
“If Chris isn’t in there, which he’s not going to be this week, I expect Blake Sorensen, I expect Culmer, I expect Claxton, I expect whoever it is to step up,” Bielema said. “And they’ll do it.”