We've talked a lot about change being the name of the game for Wisconsin this spring and with the first spring practice just a few days away it's only right that we give you a look at the position group that could be undergoing the most change of any on this team.
Yep, it's time to talk linebackers.
Wisconsin is undergoing some big time transition on the defensive side of the ball and spring is going to be really telling about how fast or even if the change is going to take hold in year one of the Gary Andersen era. So, what change are we talking about?
Under Dave Aranda's leadership as the defensive coordinator the Badgers are going to transition to a more 3-4 based system after playing the 4-3 for what seems like the entire 31 years I've been on this earth. So, to say this is a big change isn't exactly hyperbole.
Lost, But Not Forgotten: Mike Taylor (Honorable Mention All-Big Ten)
Starter(s) Still Here: Chris Borland (Sr.), Ethan Armstrong (Sr.)
Borland is one of, if not the best returning linebacker in the Big Ten this year and will have to be the vocal leader along with setting the example and tone for the new style of defense. Armstrong is back, however he won't be a participant this spring with the fact that he was seen yesterday at Pro Day with his right arm immobilized.
New Faces for Spring: None
Battles to be Had: 3 of 4 starting spots
Just because Ethan Armstrong was a starter last season doesn't mean he's a fit for this team and this system last year. The only lock on this roster for a starting spot is going to be Chris Borland at one of the two middle linebacker spots.
So, who fits where? That's the million dollar question for sure and realistically only time and the spring game will tell us for sure. However, looking at the skills of the players it's clear that one of the other inside positions will be an interesting battle that will likely involve Marcus Trotter and Vince Biegel.
Biegel could be in the mix for more than one position and he could battle Connor O'Neil for an outside position. Derek Landisch has been waiting in the wings to replace Mike Taylor and has shown flashes of being a very good player in practice, last year's spring game, and in all 14 games last year (including 1 start). Landisch ended last year with 28 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass defensed.
Outside of O'Neil, Trotter, Biegel, and Landisch there are a ton of unknown's and until Leon Jacobs (a late addition to the class of 2013) gets on campus in the fall we may not have much settled at this group. However, that makes it perhaps the 2nd most intriguing group to watch, outside of the QB's of course.
Player to Watch: Vince Biegel (RS Fr.)
Biegel was the prize of the 2012 recruiting class and the Badgers had big plans for him to at least see some decent action in his first season, but a nagging injury shut down those plans. Now, moving into the new system he's easily one of the most intriguing prospects because he's got the size and athletic ability to play in the middle or outside, it's perhaps a matter of how he takes to each role and how others take to their roles as well. No matter what he's the guy we should all be watching for at this position this year.