We've finally gotten to our first linebacker of the countdown after running through a host of quarterbacks, wide receivers and even a couple of linemen.
Linebackers are some of the heart and soul of the defense, and there are plenty more coming on the list, folks. Your first linebacker to get the nod is Chris Borland from Wisconsin.
No. 139: Chris Borland, No. 44, Wisconsin, Linebacker
Wisconsin's story for the 2011 season revolved around "All Russell Wilson Everything" and Heisman finalist Montee Ball. What went unnoticed was the Badgers' 15th-ranked defense and the role it played in getting Wisconsin its second straight Big Ten title.
Borland is a linebacker's type of linebacker. He sees the ball and hits the ball. Last season, that strategy led him to 143 tackles and a spot on the All-Big Ten team.
He takes his first steps downhill on a play-by-play basis, and he gets to the line of scrimmage with a purpose. In his sophomore season, Borland used this approach to get 19 tackles for loss; that's a hefty sum for a linebacker.
However, the kid is not one-dimensional, as he added two interceptions and five broken up passes to his production where the passing game is concerned.
Borland's weakness fits in with the running theme of Wisconsin's defensive issues: sideline-to-sideline defense.
Up the middle and through the teeth of the defense, Borland is strong. His tackles show this fact.
However, on the edge is where you see the deficiencies in the rising junior's game. Sideline to sideline, Borland is not as stout as he is going downhill to the ball carrier.
Simply put, he is better with his shoulders squared to the line than he is running with those shoulders perpendicular.
Wisconsin is looking to make it three straight Big Ten championships, and with Borland and Mike Taylor back, the interior of this defense should be stout.
Borland should make a run at another All-Big Ten selection, and he has a definite shot at getting on the All-American list with a solid season.
After the game against Oregon, I expect the Badgers as a whole to work on securing the edge of their defense. Borland's game should continue to improve in 2012.
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