Notes: An Unlikely Stopper

The starting linebacker depth chart out of fall camp showed no signs of senior Blake Sorensen. But with injuries to sophomore Chris Borland and Mike Taylor and with Sorensen's athleticism and versatility, it's no surprise that he's the team's leading tackler heading into the Rose Bowl.

LOS ANGELES – Dave Doeren said he would have been admittedly surprised is he was told in August that Blake Sorensen would lead Wisconsin in tackles heading into the Rose Bowl. Fifth-year Culmer St. Jean was on the same wavelength, but knew that if given an opportunity, few players on Wisconsin's defense had a skill set that equaled his.

"He's a great player and a great commodity," St. Jean said of Sorensen. "He plays multiple positions at linebacker and knows where the ball is supposed to be, when the ball is supposed to be there and all the leverages."

Entering the season as Wisconsin's fourth linebacker, Sorensen has started 11 games filling in for injuries and has responded by leading the team with 60 tackles and second with two interceptions. All of those numbers are career highs, especially considering Sorensen had a combined 68 tackles, one interception and three starts in his first three years in uniform.

"This year has meant a lot to me, and to be finishing in the Rose Bowl is awesome," Sorensen said. "I owe a lot of my career to Coach Doeren because he's been a huge part of my success, and Culmer and Mike (Taylor) are great to work with. They are both special players."

The feelings are reciprocated by Doeren, especially considering the amount of schemes and situations the defensive coordinator can put Sorensen into because of his versatility. Cultivated when he first was plugged into Doeren's defense, Sorensen rotated at all three spots his first two seasons and excelled at every position he was put at.

When Sorensen graduating and Doeren heading to Northern Illinois after Saturday's Rose Bowl match-up with No.3 TCU, Doeren knows exactly the kind of player he will be searching for on the recruiting front on his new endeavor.

"He's been in my ace in the hole for two years," Doeren said. "When a guy goes down, he jumps in and the production stays the same. Having guys like him as a coach is what it's all about. If you get 11 guys with his character and work ethic, you'd be in good shape."

A Fortuitous Prediction

Although he's a redshirt-junior, Aaron Henry has yet to truly feel what a bowl game is all about.

Named UW's co-freshman of the year and a first team freshman All-Big Ten in '07, Henry, his 38 tackles and 3.5 quarterback sacks were forced to sit on the sideline after he tore his ACL in a bowl practice preparing for No.16 Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.

After his surgery, Henry remembers being held up in a hospital bed when Doeren came in for a visit. Most of the conversation is forgotten, but Henry remembers one thing that was said before he left.

"He told me, "Don't worry. When you come back, we're going to get to the Rose Bowl,'" Henry said. "I don't know if he was saying that to build me or not, but he said it. Two years later, we are here."

After redshirting in '08, missing the chance to play against his boyhood favorite Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, and seeing limited action against Miami in last year's Champs, Henry has taken his cornerback skills and made him one of the best free safeties in the country.

Fourth on the team with 53 tackles, Henry leads the team with three fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown in the season opener against UNLV, and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the last three games.

"As excited I am to play in the Rose Bowl," Henry said, "I am just as excited to play another game."

A Full House

Asked to pick between what he enjoyed more, returning kicks or punts, senior wide receiver Jeremy Kerley gave a one-word answer: both.

How fitting that the man with two aces tattooed on his right forearm is an ace on the field, and just as evasive with the question as he is with the ball in his hands.

Named the league's special teams player of the year, Kerley is currently tied for 14th nationally on kickoffs (28.0-yard average) and 17th nationally on punts (12.9-yard average). He's one of only two players in the nation to rank in the top 20 in punt and kickoff return and is averaging a career-best 28 yards on kickoffs.

"It's all reaction," said Kerley, who committed to TCU over a late offer from Oklahoma and others from Arizona, Baylor, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. "People ask: Can you really practice being a punt or a kick returner? It's all reaction. It's all what are you going to do right then."

One return last year against Colorado State showed that his moves can best be described as something out of a video game, ducking and dodging through traffic and making five people miss on his way to the end zone.

"I still get compliments from that," Kerley said. "It was a great punt return, I might say so. One of the best I've had. Hopefully people talk about it for years."

As impressive as his special teams' moves are, Kerley leads TCU with 50 receptions for 517 yards and 10 touchdowns, meaning Wisconsin will see plenty of the playmaker.

"He's a special player," senior Jay Valai said. "You've got Kerley but then you have a bunch of other receivers, a bunch of receivers who are ready to go out there and they'll attack you down the field. They keep you honest first and foremost, so you've got to respect them."

A Lot of Chow

Getting a meal catered for them at Lawry's Beef Bowl Tuesday night, Sorensen said that not only was he told Wisconsin out ate TCU, but that freshman offensive guard Travis Frederick had to be cut off after eating seven 16-ounce prime rib steaks.

"She had been serving for 20 years and she said she never seen somebody eat seven," Sorensen said. "I think he could have got 10. The record was 10 and he wanted it."

Frederick, who is redshirting this season after playing in four games last season, was apparently on a mission to make sure his team won every match-up this week.

"He figured he wasn't playing the game, so he was going to keep eating," Sorensen said.


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