Six of Wisconsin's top seven linebackers have missed at least one practice through nine days of fall camp, a good omen that hopefully their injuries troubles are behind them and even a better opportunity for Huxtable to get a closer look at some of the young talent that has been recruited to Wisconsin by his predecessors.
Huxtable spoke to Badger Nation following a recent practice about the impressions given to him by his unit.
Badger Nation: Would like to get your impressions with the linebackers you've had a chance to work with after the first week. A healthy Mike Taylor and Kevin Claxton are in there and a number of guys rotating in at the Mike position that have seemed to flash at points, particularly Josh Harrison.
Huxtable: Right now, we have a little bit of an injury bug with some guys that are nicked up and are out. There are some younger guys that are getting some great opportunities to play a lot of football. Josh Harrison has come in and done a nice job. He really has filling in for Chris and Marcus Trotter. Cody Byers has had to step up with our second defense and take control of that. He's done a good job. A lot of young guys getting a lot of work and a lot of reps. You are always an ankle away from getting you number called and getting to playing, so they are doing a good job with that.
Badger Nation: Of the three linebacker positions, is the Mike (middle) the hardest to learn because of the calls and with the young guys in there, have they handled that pretty well?
Huxtable: I don't know if I would say it's the hardest, but the Mike linebacker does have a little bit more responsibility. He's the guy that's going to make the calls, set the front and make sure all the pieces are where they are supposed to be. From that respect, I would say it's a little harder. The linebacker position is a position of adjustments. Every one of them has to be able to read and recognize formations and adjust to movements by the offense. All three positions are a part of that.
Badger Nation: Do you have any concern that Chris Borland hasn't taken a ton of reps or are you happy with where he is at?
Huxtable: Chris is going to be back and he's going to be fine. Obviously, I am disappointed that I didn't have him for five days and hopefully we'll get him back and healthy. He can't get those reps back, but hopefully we can get him caught up.
Badger Nation: Who has made the biggest jump from spring ball to now at your position?
Huxtable: A guy that didn't practice, it's Ethan Armstrong. I think he has had a tremendous camp. He missed all spring with Chris and he's come back, is healthy and just worked his tail end off this summer to get bigger and stronger. HE came into camp in great shape and our strength coaches did a great job with him. Ethan did a great job and I am really excited about him.
Badger Nation: Talk about the depth you are trying to cultivate at the linebacker position. You seem to have an idea of who your starters might be if they are healthy. Who are the No.2s you are looking at right now if you had to play a game tomorrow?
Huxtable: Well Conor O'Neill is right now playing behind Mike Taylor and he does a good job. He knows the defense, he knows his position and I feel very comfortable about putting Conor out on the field. Marcus Trotter, who played all spring long with the No.1s at defense at Mike with Chris being gone, had a nice spring. If healthy, he would be the guy behind Chris and feel very comfortable about putting Marcus on the field. Then A.J. Fenton and Ethan Armstrong are both battling for that No.2 spot behind Claxton.
Badger Nation: What do you like about some of the young freshmen you are first starting to get to work with this fall?
Huxtable: I am very excited about those guys. I have been since the day they arrived here. T o see them play live in the scrimmage and throw their bodies around, it makes me very excited about Derek Landisch, Jake Keefer and Derek Watt. They are the first guys on the field every day in practice, they work at the game, they are up watching film, studying and asking questions, they have a great work ethic and they have a great passion to the game. With that, they have some good football abilities, so I am very excited about all three of those guys.
Badger Nation: Right before the spring game, you said you were excited to get on the road and start recruiting. What was it like going into high schools going in selling the Wisconsin brand?
Huxtable: It was very positive. I was down in Indiana and Georgia. I was up in Baltimore and the D.C. area. People were very receptive and spoke very highly of Coach Bielema, what he's done and this program. It was a great feeling walking into a high school and representing the University of Wisconsin.