Monday, November 23, 2009
Wisconsin's Borland for top freshman
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
The Big Ten lacked a multitude of standout freshmen this fall, but the league made up for quantity with quality. From a surprise difference-maker at Wisconsin to a starting quarterback at Michigan to a running back savior at Iowa, the league boasted several young stars.
My decision came down to three players: Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier and Iowa running back Adam Robinson. Wait for it, wait for it ...
Chris Borland took over the starting outside linebacker spot midway through the 2009 season.
I endorse Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland as Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The award has gone to a quarterback, running back or wide receiver in each of the past eight seasons, and it wouldn't surprise me if Forcier got the nod tonight (Big Ten Network, 8 p.m. ET). But Borland has been the most outstanding freshman performer for a Wisconsin team that turned things around this fall largely because of young players.
The lightly recruited Borland made an impact for the Badgers as soon as he set foot on campus. Coaches raved about him during preseason camp, and it was easy to see why during the year. Borland ranked second in the Big Ten in both forced fumbles (5) and fumbles recovered (3). He was the only freshman to twice earn Big Ten player of the week honors, for special teams on Sept. 20 and for defense on Nov. 1.
Borland first made his mark on special teams, blocking a punt against Wofford that was returned for a touchdown and even returning seven kickoffs, a rarity for a linebacker. He replaced the injured Mike Taylor at starting outside linebacker midway through the season and has 51 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception to go along with his amazing fumble statistics.
Forcier did magical things for Michigan and Robinson showed tremendous maturity and guts as he emerged as Iowa's top running back, but Borland consistently made a huge impact every time he stepped on the field.