MADISON – The depth that Wisconsin has built at outside linebacker is staggering.
After senior Vince Biegel, one of the team’s two captains this season, the Badgers have a pair of rising juniors in Garret Dooley and T.J. Watt and a handful of redshirt freshmen who will likely see the field. But as good as those players are, the incoming scholarship linebackers could be even better.
The Badgers signed three outside linebackers in 2016, including former Carmel (IN) prospect Noah Burks. A three-sport athlete, Burks was named to Indiana Football Coaches Association Top-50 All-State team as a junior and senior. After making 120 tackles in 2014, Burks had 89 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and three interceptions last season, earning a first-team all-state selection by Associated Press.
He likely won’t be needed this season because of the number of bodies in front of him, but Burks has all the intangibles to become a playmaker in Wisconsin’s 3-4 scheme.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What’s been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
Burks: It’s definitely a lot different. Class is early in the morning, they’re a little longer than what it would normally be in high school and I think the big difference is heading to study table during the weekday at nights. Just knowing you have to spend an hour and a half completely dedicated to school work is something new for me, especially for me being here. Adjusting to that, managing my time with school work and learning the campus are the big things.
What’s been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
Burks: It obviously is a step up from high school from a physical standpoint. Everybody moves a lot faster, everybody is a lot stronger. The workouts have been pretty tough, but we’ve been out here grinding together, so I think it has been going well. Me personally I’ve been trying to give it my all every play and be as physical as possible to compete out there.
How did you prepare your body before coming to college so you would be able to step right in and start competing?
Burks: I just wanted to make sure my body would be able to withstand all the running and the physicality that went around. I went back and worked out with my high school running backs coach. He would help me out a lot with all that stuff. Obviously going through summer workouts and everything just prepared me for the beginning of camp.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
Burks: Right now I’m just bringing the physical aspect. I have so much to improve on and still to go. I have to improve on my footwork. That’s huge for me as an outside linebacker. I need work on where I need to go to on my drops, my hips and zones. Really just learning the playbook and getting it down is the biggest thing. Once I can do that, I feel like I can play the game at 100 miles per hour.
How is Madison different than Carmel?
Burks: Carmel is very smooth, Madison is not. I am really used to roundabouts. That’s all we have in Carmel. It’s pretty unique, because not many other places have that. That’s the biggest thing is having to stop at stop lights. It’s not on a grid system, so having to figure out which way roads go definitely took me a couple days to figure out. I feel like I have it down now, and I love the city. I love going over to the lake. I love how there are so many spots on campus where you can just go and relax, go do whatever, shop, hang out. There’s so many things to do here.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
Burks: To start off I’m going to try to do the classes I need to get out of the way as a core requirement and just do the best I can in those classes. I am going to try to apply to the business school, I think, and go down that path. I don’t know what major yet but somewhere along those lines.
What’s your favorite place on the Madison campus?
Burks: Nitty Gritty.
What’s your least favorite place on campus?
Burks: There isn’t one that I’ve found where it’s like, ‘Oh, this sucks.’
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
Burks: Video games. I play online a lot. I’m still figuring out which teammates have which video game systems.
Who are you living with this fall?
Burks: This summer I was with Dallas Jeanty, but I never really saw him very much because we were on different schedules. This fall I’m living with Pat Kasl. It’s been great. From the first week, we just went out to the lake one day and just chilled. We’ve just kept doing it. He likes video games, too.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learn about Patrick?
Burks: He can eat faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. I believe I’m a fast either and he eats faster than I do.
Where does your biggest support come from?
Burks: I would say my family. They’re talking to me every single day seeing how things are going, making sure I’m all right and getting everything I need, so I know they have my back. I know here they’re going to be tough on me, but my coaches and the older players have my back, too, as long as I’m giving 100 percent.
What’s your parents’ reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
Burks: They love it. They wanted me to go wherever I would want to and be happy. I’m extremely happy here, so they’re happy.
You had a lot of opportunities to go to other players. What made Wisconsin stand out from everyone else?
Burks: The atmosphere here and the city, the coaches, the mentality, the tradition, all those things together I couldn’t resist.
What’s the best part of being a Wisconsin football player and putting on that red and white jersey?
Burks: It’s surreal, and I’m really happy that I can be a part of it and come out here and compete with all the guys. We really are bonding because we’re all going through the exact same grind and everyone is working their butts off. It’s all just bringing us closer together, so I’m excited for what’s ahead.