After leading the Badgers with 84 tackles last season, senior Jae McFadden (the longest tenure player of the group) moved from the middle linebacker position (where he started 13 games last season) to the will linebacker, a position he played his freshman and sophomore season. The duel experience helps Wisconsin utilize McFadden's knowledge of the middle linebacker position, as the senior is able to read and react to a play that happens anywhere on the field. Combined with his agility, McFadden always seemed to have his nose in the play.
"I think with Jaevery being an outside backer and having played a year at ‘mike' is going to help him a lot in his development," Defensive Coordinator Dave Doeren said. "He already knows what he's supposed to do on the outside and now he's going to know what is happening at the inside position. As a leader on the defense, he should know everything that happens."
The same goes for junior Culmer St. Jean, who is playing the best he has since coming to Wisconsin. St. Jean is a near carbon copy of McFadden in the sense that he is knowledgeable within the defense, has tremendous ability and always seems to be in the middle of the action.
Junior Blake Sorensen is an interesting case because throughout spring, one never really noticed him, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sorensen didn't do anything wrong at the strongside backer, but he didn't make a ton of plays to stand out.
After that, the jury is still out. Sophomore Kevin Rouse played well in the spring game (game-high nine tackles), but still has steps to make. Freshman Michael Taylor has most of the defensive coaches excited, but can't stay healthy. After missing most of last season because of surgery, Taylor missed most of spring because of a lingering hamstring issue. Even so, the lack of time for Taylor hasn't stopped his teammates from lauding the freshman's abilities amongst the linebackers.
"It was kind of funny when one of the media members asked our players who they are excited to see play and Jaevery McFadden, the first name he threw out there was Mike Taylor," Head Coach Bret Bielema said at Big Ten Media Day. "He plays the same position and he knows what he's capable of doing."
Another player to keep the eyes on is sophomore Tony Megna, a walk-on from Oak Creek that continued to make strides after battling back from a serious knee injury.
"Those guys (do) carry a chip on their shoulder," Bielema said. "There are no pretty boys or prima donnas in that group."
Fall Depth Chart:
Sr. Jaevery McFadden (6-3, 226)
So. Kevin Rouse (6-0, 229)
So. Tony Megna (6-0, 202)
Jr. Culmer St. Jean (6-1, 235)
Fr. Leonard Hubbard (6-1, 233)
Jr. Blake Sorensen (6-1, 230)
Fr. Mike Taylor (6-2, 215)