A Changing of the Guard

With Chris Borland out for the remainder of the season, No.11 Wisconsin will have to find a way to fill his enormous play-making shoes. With players like Kevin Claxton anxious for the chance against Austin Peay on Saturday, the Badgers' confidence is still high.

MADISON - After three years in the program, Kevin Claxton wasn't surprised with how quickly things move at the University of Wisconsin.

With the Badgers thin at linebacker during spring drills, the Wisconsin coaching staff made the decision to move the struggling 6-foot-1, 230-pound safety to middle linebacker, it was thought the move would help build depth in the future.

It was a fortuitous move. With sophomore Chris Borland out for the season with a shoulder injury, Claxton it expected to see his role increase in Wisconsin base defense and Badger package when No.11 Wisconsin (3-0) faces Austin Peay Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall.

"It's kind of quick for me to jump in and just start playing more than I ever did at safety," Claxton said. "I kind of expected it when I first made the move because Coach Bielema said if someone would go down, I would be the next guy in."

Having bounced around and practiced at both the inside and middle linebacker positions, Claxton has been a welcomed commodity. Originally thought he would play the middle linebacker position, Claxton has proven to be a hybrid player – being able to naturally back pedal into pass coverage and make a play on the ball or charge the line of scrimmage to stop the ball carrier.

With the safety background, Claxton knows where his last line of defense is going to be located during run fits, allowing him to be more aggressive on the play.

"It was something new, and it was a new beginning," Claxton said. "Things weren't planning how I planned them to go at safety, so I wanted to get another chance. I welcomed to move."

After three games, Claxton has started to get his feet wet. Making three tackles against UNLV, Claxton was named UW's co-special teams player of the week after recording two tackles with 0.5 TFLs and one quarterback hurry against San Jose State.

That game proved to be an important dress rehearsal, seeing as that was the first of what is expected to be 10 missed games by Borland, who will apply for a medical redshirt after the season.

"We're still trying to figure things out," Claxton said. "I've been trying to learn Chris' position to try and help. We're going to rally around him, but we've still got to get the next guys ready and just do what we do."

So far, things have been looking up for the UW defense. Wisconsin ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 35th in the country in total defense, allowing an average of just 301.3 yards per game, 4.6 yards per game less than last season.

With FCS opponent Austin Peay the final obstacle between the Badgers and the conference slate, it gives the chance for Claxton, junior Kevin Rouse, redshirt freshman A.J. Fenton and sophomore defensive end David Gilbert to get used to their new roles on the defense.

"We're very confident we can do that job," Claxton said. "We're still working some things out. We started kind of slow stopping the run last year and we finished with one of the best run defenses in the nation. We're still working on some things, but we're a very comfortable, confident defense.

"It's a good opponent just to get us back to playing a style we're going to be playing in the Big Ten. It's going to get us back to using our rules and playing down-hill football."

Badger Nation Top Stories