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September 14, 2010

Sorensen's versatility vital to linebacker success

Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are rarely on the field together.

It's not that they're mutually exclusive towards one another or the position, it's just that one or the other consistently gets nicked up when the timing finally seems to be coming together.

Instead of having two dynamic threats and athletic specimens on the edge at linebacker, Wisconsin is forced to settle with one. And that's been the constant since Taylor suffered a torn ACL during the Iowa game a year ago.

Following that unfortunate occurrence, Borland finally received his opportunity to move from the depth of special teams to every day player. And he ran with it all the way to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Now, with Taylor seemingly recovered from his ACL surgery and getting eased back into game reps, its Borland that's out with a nagging shoulder injury.

What would happen if the planets actually aligned and the universe allowed those two instinctual linebackers to wreak havoc at the same time?

"It's fun to think about," Taylor said after Wisconsin's 27-14 win over San Jose State. "I've got to focus on me and getting myself healthy. Chris is hurt too, hopefully we can both come back and the main thing is just trying to get healthy so we can play those games."

At his weekly press conference, head coach Bret Bielema announced that Taylor made it through the game without any sort of set back and should be set to go 100 percent come Saturday.

In regards to Borland, though, a lot will rest on the way he performs and handles practice throughout the week, assuming he actually is healthy enough to be cleared to practice.

"Whether or not he could play on Saturday, we'll kind of see how he handles the week right now," Bielema said. "He should be able to pop in there on Tuesday's practice and see how he handles the week to determine his status on Saturday."

If all goes well, maybe Saturday will be the first time that both Borland and Taylor are on the field at the same time in quite a while. Having two explosive talents in the same linebacking core, particularly with Borland's explosiveness and ability to disrupt the backfield and Taylor's sure tackling and knack for forcing fumbles and creating big plays, would cover the void left a week ago when the Badgers struggled to pressure the quarterback.

And as a result of having no steady pass rush is having a defense that is vulnerable to the pass. If you give most division one college quarterbacks ample time to relax and progress through their reads, chances are they are going to make you pay.

Borland can alleviate some of that inconsistency.

"A huge part of that is pass rush," Bielema said. "You really saw the loss of No. 44 out there pressuring the passer. The passing game was felt big time out there. Hopefully we can get that element back.

"That's something we can all benefit from."

But then there's the case of Blake Sorensen. What happens to him if Borland and Taylor are set to return this weekend, particularly with the way the senior has strung together two very solid efforts to start the season. He is, after all, the team's leading tackler.

"Blake has done very, very well," Bielema said. "He didn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday then he practiced Thursday and played Saturday. If Chris and Mike were 100 percent we'd probably go with those two guys as starters and let Blake fill in for all three of those guys.

"He's probably the next best option."

And against a team that tries to run as many plays (between 80 and 100) as Arizona State, the depth and versatility a guy like Sorensen has could really ease the transition back into game play for a guy coming off an injury.

For the UW coaching staff, that's a great problem to have.

"We'd really like to get Culmer subbed out a little bit especially in this type of game," Bielema said. "We definitely have got to make sure our personnel is fresh on defense."


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