Outside linebacker is the defensive position where the Badgers have the most flexibility and depth. Two players—junior Kareem Timbers and sophomore LaMarr Watkins—split the starting role last season. Timbers started the first seven games (end Jonathan Welsh started game eight in a five linemen set), played in 11 games, and recorded 27 tackles, one interception and one tackle for loss. Watkins started the last six games, played in all 14, and tallied 41 tackles, four for loss and one interception as a true freshman.
Watkins entered spring as the starter, but Timbers reclaimed the position with a strong spring practice season. The competition continued into the fall and Watkins and Timbers each played well during the 17-day fall camp. Watkins pushed for, and earned, considerable playing time, but there was never a sign that Timbers was in danger of relinquishing his starting role. Watkins, though, will "start" in some defensive sets.
Timbers and Watkins are each starter-quality players, a boon for Wisconsin's defense. Timbers will start in the team's base defense. He looked a complete player this fall—steady but not exceptional at each aspect of his position. Watkins excels in coverage and is a little better playing in space than Timbers. Thus, Watkins is one of the starting linebackers in the nickel defense where he can drop into coverage and use his athleticism to help the Badgers. Watkins also will see playing time in short yardage or goal line sets, where the opponent's personnel dictates having an extra linebacker on the field.
Junior Chris Catalano seems to have found a home at outside linebacker and provides quality depth. Catalano started his collegiate career at wide receiver, then switched to defensive back, then linebacker, where he played last season in a reserve role. Catalano has nine career tackles, mostly on special teams, where he will again help the Badges this season. Catalano does not have much game experience at outside linebacker, but he had a respectable fall camp, earning a spot on the No. 2 nickel defense.
The only other outside linebacker in fall camp was freshman Brandon Kelly, who will very likely redshirt and play with the scout defense. He displayed a good deal of athleticism and potential this fall.