Originally written on Madtown Badgers  |  Last updated 11/19/14

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10: Linebacker Mike Taylor #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a tackle against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Wisconsin fans finally got their wish - to see Mike Taylor and Chris Borland on the field at the same time all season long this past year and boy was it magical.  The two were enough to make the Badgers LB group the best in the Big Ten last year, but this is a new season and gone is Kevin Claxton due to graduation.  There's also a change in the coaching of this position as Dave Huxtable left to be the defensive coordinator at Pitt with Paul Chryst.  In his place steps Andy Buh (pronounced "Boo") who was previously the defensive coordinator and LB's coach at Nevada and Stanford.  So there will be some adjustment this Spring and it will be interesting to see how this group reacts to the change.  

Heading into Spring Football there isn't much unknown about this group with just the one spot vacated by Claxton's departure.  The question may be what can Taylor and Borland do for an encore?  After all it's Taylor's senior season in 2012, so why not go out with an even bigger bang than in 2011?

 

Mike Taylor - RS Sr. 

I'm not sure that there could be a better single season from Taylor than the one he had personally last year.  He recorded 137 tackles (tied - 15th single season tackles all-time at Wisconsin) and added 8tfl's, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, and 5 passes defensed.  That performance earned him all-B1G 1st team (media) & 2nd team (coaches).  He was also named co-defensive MVP on the Badgers.  He played his beset against the best last year, recording a career high 22 tackles against Ohio State.  Taylor added a season high 2.5tfl's and also broke up a pass in that game.  He also had massive games against Nebraska (14tkls), Indiana (13), Illinois (13), and Minnesota (13). 

Questions this Spring: 

I'm not sure there are many for a guy that was incredible on the outside, but if there is one it's can he add some more speed to be even more of a force on the weak side?  Also, how does he adjust to the coaching of Buh?

Chris Borland - RS Jr.

His freshman campaign was very good and much was expected of him in 2010, but a shoulder injury once again derailed his season and he spent much of the 2011 Spring answering questions about his shoulder.  Well, his on the field season put to rest any questions about his health or his ability to play in the middle.  He was named an unanimous all-B1G 1st team member for his 131 tackles, 18tfl's, 1.5sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2INT's, and 7 passes defensed.  He was also a 3rd team All-American according to Yahoo! Sports.  The tandem between Taylor and Borland was just unbelievable and he showed why so many Badger fans were extremely excited to have him back.  He's another of your prototypical Badger finds as he wasn't highly recruited at all out of high school in Ohio. You have to think the Buckeyes would love to have him now, huh?

Questions this Spring: 

What can he do for an encore?  You have to think that the 2nd year of playing with Mike Taylor can only make them both better and seeing how they work on their communication will be a key.

 

Conor O'Neill - RS So. 

He'll be taking over, at least in Spring camp, for the departed Kevin Claxton and this spot will be the only one up for grabs come fall camp.  O'Neill played in all 13 games last season and you may remember his performance against Michigan State in the B1G championship game where he forced a fumble.  He's also a two time Academic All-B1G.  In limited action behind Claxton he finished with 27 tackles, 1.5tfl's, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery so he showed he's got what it takes in just his 1st chance at major minutes.  

Questions this Spring: 

Can he step up and how does he react to being in the starters role?  He'll be given every chance to do so and may have the upper hand even with prized recruit Vince Biegel coming in this fall.  Also, how does he fit in with the Taylor/Borland duo?  That may be the biggest part to who starts on the strong side because if you are good but can't work in tandem with the others you've really got nothing.

 

Others to watch: 

This is a very promising group of players behind Taylor, Borland, and O'Neill and could be the deepest position on the defensive side of the ball, albeit a youthful group for sure.  So, who should you also watch through Spring camp?

Marcus Trotter - RS So. 

He is stuck behind Chris Borland at the middle linebacker spot but had a great Spring game last year with Borland not playing.  He played 4 games in 2011 and recorded 4 tackles (2 against Minnesota and Penn State a piece).  He was also named an Academic All-American last year.

A.J. Fenton - RS Jr. 

No one may earn more in the way of playing time than Fenton with a good spring.  He saw most of his action in 2011 on special teams and has a chance to become a bigger contributor there.  In 2011 he only recorded 1 tackle though.

Derek Landish - So. 

Some wonder if Landish could move over to the Strong side to give O'Neill some competition this spring after backing up Mike Taylor last season.  Landish was a huge player in his true freshman year and was named Wisconsin's Rookie of the Year.  He had 20 tackles, 1tfl, and 1 fumble recovery.  Question is do they let him sit behind Taylor once again or try to find a way to get him on the field now.

Jake Keeter - RS Fr. 

DNP in 2011 but was name scout team's Defensive Player of the Week against Minnesota and should have a chance to contribute more in 2012.  He could be a guy that surprises some in camp, especially those that don't follow the depth of this unit all that much.

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