Upheaval no downer for Wisconsin mainstay

Wisconsin All-Big Ten linebacker Chris Borland, left, is used to change. The fifth-year senior is about to play for his fourth defensive coordinator.


One of the biggest constants in Chris Borland's football career at Wisconsin has been change.

The fifth-year senior is about to play for his fourth defensive coordinator. Complicating the switch this time is a change in the defense's basic alignment from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

Borland calmly said he'll adjust.

“A lot of people point to that as an obstacle or adversity,” the All-Big Ten linebacker said. “On the flip side, I've been introduced to a lot of different brands of football and a lot of different knowledge. So you can learn a lot.”

The entire Wisconsin team dealt with radical change in December when coach Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas after the Badgers claimed their third straight Big Ten title.

None of the UW players at the recent Big Ten media days said out loud they didn't mind Bielema leaving. But it was apparent new coach Gary Andersen from Utah State has smoothed over any transition issues.

“Over the last seven months, I witnessed Coach Andersen create a culture,” Borland said. “Guys are excited. It absolutely has added energy.

“We're doing things this summer as a team that we haven't been able to do in the past. Player-led practices, seven-on-seven sessions. I thought we built off a good spring and had a great summer.”

Borland said the strength of Wisconsin, even with a coaching change, is chemistry.

“That's our strong suit,” he said. “Obviously, you have to have talent. But when you have guys who get along and guys with high character, the other things fall into place.”

Borland definitely shows up in the talent category. Andersen called him “the best linebacker in the country.”

What does Borland say?

“I don't need to make a statement about that,” he said. “My play this fall will speak for itself. But Coach Andersen is a defensive mind and has seen a lot of great players. To have him say that, it does mean a lot.”

Borland grew up in suburban Dayton, Ohio, an hour away from Ohio State. But the Buckeyes wanted nothing to do with a 5-foot-10, 205-pound high schooler. Neither did many other schools.

“I wasn't on anybody's radar,” he said.

It wasn't until Borland went to a Wisconsin camp and caught the staff's eye by playing linebacker, running back, punter and place-kicker that he got his first — and only — Division I scholarship offer.

Now, the 5-11, 246-pounder has certificates marking his achievements as 2009 Big Ten freshman of the year and 2012 first-team All-Big Ten linebacker.

Nebraska fans have seen a lot of Borland. In last September's Husker win over UW, Borland recovered two fumbles. In Wisconsin's Big Ten title game rout over NU, he made a season-high 13 tackles and forced a fumble.

Despite the Badgers having stars such as Borland, a 23-man senior class and at least a dozen NFL prospects, it is Ohio State that is an overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten Leaders Division.

“That's OK. We're quietly confident,” Borland said. “We understand Ohio State is a big brand and that people like to talk about them.

“But we'll remind you that we've won three straight Big Ten championships. We won't shy away from that. And that's our goal this year.”

Buckeye fans would like to hang an asterisk on Wisconsin's title last season since neither 12-0 Ohio State nor Penn State was eligible due to NCAA sanctions.

Borland's succinct reply: “You can't commit violations and represent a conference.”

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