Borland is man in middle for Badgers
October, 15, 2013
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
I got a chance to spend some times behind the scenes with Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland last week as he prepared to face Northwestern. Here's a snippet of my story:
[Defensive coordinator Dave] Aranda calls Borland "the perfect fit" for the 3-4 alignment he brought to Wisconsin this season. The scheme allows Borland more freedom to roam and make plays, and he has seemingly been around the ball on just about every snap this year.
He was especially destructive in the 31-24 loss at Ohio State, registering a career-high 16 tackles. That included both a fourth-and-1 and a goal-line stop of Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde, a 235-pounder who isn't used to being stood up by just one defender.
"That was awesome," said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who knows a little bit about linebacker play. "That's textbook. Sink and strike." What makes Borland one of the nation's top linebackers is his combination of strength, skill, preparation and experience. Few Big Ten players can match him on that last trait.
Borland has appeared in 50 career games because of a shoulder injury that limited him to two appearances in 2010. He recently bumped into a female graduate who had shared a class with him when he was a freshman. She first asked him what he was doing on campus before pausing and saying, "Wait … you still play here?"
Borland jokes about being an old man, but his experience helps him spot opponents' tendencies and figure out how to use them to his advantage. He does that so well that Aranda says he often gets tips from Borland. Like all Badgers players, he downloads game film and cut-ups on his iPad, which also includes Aranda's notes and diagrams on defensive plays. Borland said he watches about an hour's worth of film on his own time every day, and he takes copious notes on a yellow legal pad.
As he watched Northwestern film on Thursday afternoon, he guided a visitor through what he saw. He pointed out that the Wildcats had run the ball 71 percent of the time after gaining four or more yards on first down this season, and the depth of their running backs on shotgun snaps usually gave away whether they would run or a pass.
"If we get that, and that alignment, that's something you can really jump on," he said.
As Northwestern lined up for another play on the iPad video, Borland correctly predicted, "that right guard is going to pull." How did he know?
"Look at his head compared to everybody else on the line," he said. "It's like a full six inches back. His left shoulder is up, and his weight's on his heels."
To read the full story, click here.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State