The University of Wisconsin football team was dealt a huge blow Tuesday morning as news came that sophomore linebacker Chris Borland would miss the rest of the 2010 season.
The 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year underwent offseason surgery to address a torn labrum in his left shoulder. After a successful surgery, the focus then shifted to slowly working Borland back into football shape for 2010.
The transition back to football in 2010 proved a tough one as Borland re-injured his surgically-repaired left shoulder for the second time in three games Saturday against Arizona State.
After meeting with team doctors, trainers and the coaching staff, both head coach Bret Bielema and Borland decided it was the right decision to sit him for the rest of 2010.
The team will be requesting a medical redshirt for Borland at the end of the season.
So, where does Wisconsin go from here?
Who will fill the hole created in the Badgers defense?
While it's a tough task to replace the intensity, athleticism and skill Borland brings to Wisconsin's linebacking core, it can be done.
Fortunately Wisconsin is blessed to have enough experience, leadership and depth at the position to get by.
The Badgers will still be able to rely on senior middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean. St. Jean currently leads the team through three games recording 17 tackles. We will definitely see lots of production out of St. Jean this season, but can he step into a leadership role and get the rest of the guys to rally behind him and make up for the loss of Borland's numbers?
Mike Taylor is the other lock in the linebacking unit for Wisconsin. In 2009 Borland led Wisconsin with 46 tackles before suffering an injury in a game against Iowa that would sideline him for the rest of 2009. We also know Taylor can produce and the Badgers need him to get back to that kind of play now more than ever.
Sure, the linebacking core is OK at the other two positions, but who will fill in for Borland?
There are two players that will combine to fill the role of Chris Borland: Blake Sorensen and Kevin Rouse.
Senior linebacker Blake Sorensen is the likely choice to replace Borland on the depth charts and receive most of the first team reps. Through the first three games Sorensen has put together a nice preview as to what we can expect him to bring to the table.
In a Week 2 matchup with the San Jose State Spartans Sorensen ironically filled in for Chris Borland, who was sidelined after aggravating his injury in week one. Sorenson recorded a team-high seven tackles and his second career interception.
As seen in the San Jose State game, the aspects of Borland's game that Sorensen will be filling in for are tackling and pass coverage.
To fully complete a substitute for Borland a puss rush and run control is needed.
Look no further than Kevin Rouse.
Rouse, a redshirt junior, has not seen a whole lot of action during his time with the Wisconsin football program. His hopes are built fully on upside and potential.
Through the first three games of the 2010 season, Rouse is currently tied for second on the team with two tackles-for-loss, equalling 18 yards. Rouse will likely be someone brought in to help with the run control and making sure opposing running backs don't break into the second-level of coverage.
Another stat in which Rouse is currently tied for the team-lead in is sacks. Rouse has recorded two sacks for a loss of 18 yards. It appears that when Rouse gets to opponents in the backfield, they'll be loosing a hefty chunk of yardage.
There's no doubt that the loss of linebacker Borland is a big one, and it can put pessimistic view on the Badgers' hopes for 2010. But through the potential in the combined efforts of Sorenson and Rouse, there's no reason not to be optimistic either.