Wisconsin inside linebackers Alex Lewis and Jeff Mack are clearly the top of the lot at their position. Each has played well throughout fall camp, exhibiting good all-around skills. Behind the starters at the two inside positions, however, Wisconsin has a fair amount of competition. Mark Zalewski and Kyle McCorison are receiving the majority of reps with the second-team defense, but Elliott Goode, John Gillen and Reggie Cribbs are also in the mix.
"The ones are the ones and the twos, right now, there are some battles for the twos," defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "That is what you want. You want competition and you expect the young guys to learn from the older guys."
Cosgrove and Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez stated last spring that there was a possibility the team would rotate some of its young linebackers in with the first unit, much as it rotates its defensive linemen. With Lewis and Mack playing so well they will likely remain on the field as much as possible, but it remains a possibility that the Badgers will get the younger players on the field.
"If they continue to develop like they have, then I will (rotate them in)," Cosgrove said. "But when you have two like Alex and Jeff right now, who are very good football players, you want to keep them on the field as much as you can. I will feel comfortable putting guys on the field to give them rest. I feel that way right now. I think we have capable backups.
"Right now you have Kyle McCorison, who is a very good, solid football player. You have Mark Zalewski and Elliott Goode. If Reggie (Cribbs) keeps on coming I could see him working in there and really I am pleased with all of the linebackers. John Gillen has done a nice job, making some very good progress. I feel very good about the depth at linebacker right now—it is just (a question of) how fast the younger guys can come along."
Second-team outside linebacker LaMarr Watkins, who started the final six games last season, is receiving regular reps with the first unit. Kareem Timbers, who started the first seven games of last year and reclaimed the starting job in spring football, remains the clear No. 1 at drop linebacker, but competition remains.
"There is competition at every position," Cosgrove said. "Kareem earned that position in the spring and right now there is nothing to say that is not his position. LaMarr is doing some good things, but we need that competition at that position because competition will make the starter better."
Timbers and Watkins have each had very good fall camps. Though Timbers will very likely remain the starter, Watkins appears to be earning playing time and could see the field as a situational player.