LBs Strive for Consistency

Needing to replace a productive senior linebacker class, including All-American Chris Borland, Wisconsin saw its linebackers show signs of being a productive unit. Now the big step is consistent play.

Life without Chris Borland at linebacker began Saturday, and Wisconsin showed they still could be a productive unit without last year’s Big Ten defensive player of the year… in spurts.

Vince Biegel, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Joe Schobert were able to slow down LSU’s offense by making plays in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. Then the fourth quarter arrived and all the productivity by the linebackers through the first three quarters became a distant memory.

The injuries to senior defensive linemen Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski affected the play of the linebackers, causing a lack of gaps to shoot through that were once created in the opening quarters.

“It’s not a good feeling; you try everything you can to stop it but sometimes it’s just not meant to be,” Schobert said of the fourth quarter. “I thought our heads were up and everyone was communicating. Nothing really changed in the first half to the second half in that regard, just a couple times the ball bounced their way. That’s football, and that’s what happens. You just have to learn from it and get better.”

Trotter led the linebackers with 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a half of a sack against LSU. Schobert wasn’t far behind with eight tackles and two tackles for loss.

“I thought the linebackers played really good, played hard the whole time” Schobert said. “That’s one thing I know (that) our linebackers will never do is take plays off. We play hard the whole game. It just didn’t roll our way.”

With Herring and Zagzebski out an unknown length of time, the linebackers are going to have to create plays on their own. Schobert and Biegel are athletic enough where they should be effective coming from the outside while Trotter and Landisch, who have combined to play 56 games, have the experience in the middle.

Although it is easy to look at the fourth quarter and the lack of production, Schobert feels there were plenty of positives to build on from the first half, holding the Tigers to 4.5 yards per play and 1.1 rushing yards per carry.

“We played a great game in the first half and the second half stuff started to happen and we just have to watch the film and learn from that,” Schobert said. “The first half showed we can be a great team and we just have to learn from that.”

The Badgers also showed they can be opportunistic is creating turnovers. After generating only 20 turnovers last season, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda harped throughout fall camp that the Badgers won’t be able to take the next step as a defense without the linebackers making plays. Wisconsin’s second touchdown was generated after Schobert’s tackle attempt knocked the ball loose from tight end Travis Dickson’s reception, allowing Caputo to recover on LSU’s 31-yard line.

Now the goal is to be that kind of unit from start to finish.

“You have to execute consistently for four quarters,” Trotter said. “So we learned a lot this game and I rather this happen early in the season then later on.”

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