A Patched-Up Combo

Two competitors that were sidelined because of offseason surgery, sophomore linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are on the mend, and they have relied on each other for motivation.

MADISON - For as fierce of competitors as they are, forcing to sit out spring practices was like a football death sentence for linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor.

The sophomores didn't have a choice. Both were hung up because of offseason surgery and not cleared physically to play. Taylor tore his ACL October 17 against Iowa while Borland hurt his shoulder midseason, but elected to finish the season before having a clean-out procedure.

It nagged at them both, especially since they were often seen watching practice holding a football in their hands, but it was a relief to have somebody else go through the same problem.

"Time was the thing that made the biggest difference," Borland said. "We got along great before that, but being in the rehab facility for hours a day helped us get through that."

Taylor started the first seven games last season at the outside backer position and was leading the Badgers in tackles (46) and third in tackles for loss (6.5) before the injury. The silver lining was that the injury made way for Borland, who made a big impact with 54 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, five forced fumbles, three fumble recovering and an interception.

"I was very impressed with Chris' play last year," Taylor said. "I was kind of in the same boat with my first year starting and he came in and started playing great. He finished the season off well."

The two rarely played together, which made the long rehabilitation process they shared a welcomed experience. Getting the chance to sit down together and watch film, study the linebackers from the sideline and rehabilitate their injuries, the duo made sure that If they couldn't complete on the field, they would find a way to do so off it.

"There's always going to be competition, especially when you see a guy playing like that," Taylor said. "It was healthy competition, and it brought out the best in both of us," Taylor said. "We really grew as teammates and when you get that chemistry and feel for one another, it makes it easier to play for one another and have fun out there."

With the prospect of finally being healthy, Taylor didn't know what his second knee surgery was going to bring. Doctors operated on the same knee on August 17 to clean out aggravated scar tissue that was preventing the knee bones from getting full extension. When the injury first happened, he thought is was much worse.

Taylor's track record is far from healthy, as the redshirt sophomore has yet to make it through a fall camp injury free. He took a medical redshirt his first season after having neck surgery to clear up an old injury from when he was a championship high school wrestler at Ashwaubenon High outside Green Bay. The following fall brought groin and hamstring problems, so when Taylor felt pain in his leg during the third practice, he felt uneasy.

"It was the first day of pads and the second play of a scrimmage," Taylor recalled. "I tried to tackle the tailback and my right leg swung around and kind of kicked the ground. I didn't hear a pop, but it kind of felt weird. I made 20 more plays, I wasn't playing well because of my knee and I took myself out because I wasn't doing the job. I kept playing on it, so it wasn't as bad as it was, but things cross your mind when you've had an ACL injury."

A MRI revealed that Taylor had torn through some scar tissue, but Taylor has started to increase his running and get back into football condition with the goal of playing as soon as possible.

"I feel I could come back for the first game and I am not saying that I won't, but I think it's going to be important for me to strengthen my leg and make sure everything is intact," Taylor said. "I hope to practicing soon, get a few hits on it and see how it responds."

While Taylor is building his knee back up, Borland is in full attack mode. Unable to work out his upper body because of the surgery, Borland has increased his weight up to 242 pounds and shows the same quickness and aggressiveness that allowed his to reach the ball carrier, no matter where he is on the field.

Although they were a successful tag team at the same position, the coaching staff plans to utilize both of them on the field. While they have three more years together, Borland and Taylor both are agreement on one thing: they are more focused on today than tomorrow.

"That's how we operate," Borland said. "We're more excited for our next full-pad practice than we are for UNLV. It's cliché, but we like taking care of business one day at a time."


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