The book on: Chris Borland

Ohio State's loss was Wisconsin's gain, as the heady, hard-hitting inside linebacker tallied 410 and 15 forced fumbles during his career. He has starred in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.

Chris Borland

Middle Linebacker
University of Wisconsin Badgers
Kettering, Ohio
Archbishop Karl Joseph Alter High School


The former Ohio State University football coaching staff did not regard this in-state product highly during the 2008 recruiting season, and Borland has made Buckeyes offensive players regret that decision. Actually, even though he is an Ohio native, he grew up a Badgers fan and when he was offered a scholarship by the Wisconsin recruiters, he signed within hours to attend the university where he would go on to establish himself as one of the best defenders in school history.

Borland would conclude his career as the school's sixth-leading tackler with 410 stops, which rank second among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players. He joins Keith Smith of San Jose State (476), Shawn Jackson of Tulsa (401) and James Morris of Iowa (400) as the only active players to reach the 400-tackle level. He placed fourth all-time among Badgers with 50 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, tying the school record with nine fumble recoveries while finishing second in NCAA annals with Wisconsin and Big 10 Conference career records behind his 15 forced fumbles.

His bone-jarring tackles and excellent pass coverage skills has produced 31 turnovers for the Badgers (15 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries, one blocked punt, three pass thefts and three quarterback pressures that caused interceptions). His 17 quarterback sacks placed the middle linebacker fourth on the school career-record charts.

Borland's importance to the team's success is unquestioned, as the defensive leader has made 34 touchdown-saving tackles (eighteen vs. the run, 16 vs. the pass) during his 52-game career. During that span, he delivered 330 stops vs. the ground game, limiting those ball carriers to just 428 yards, an average of 1.30 yards per attempt. Against the rest of the Badgers, opponents registered an average of 5.28 yards per carry.

In run support, Borland made 45 third-down hits, five more on fourth-down snaps and 56 tackles inside the red zone, including 28 on goal-line stands. Additionally, he took down runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain on 48 other plays. In pass coverage, he has had 204 passes targeted into his area, allowing just 52 receptions (25.49%) for 326 yards, an average of 6.27 yards per pass completion and 1.60 yards per attempt.

The rest of the Wisconsin defense saw the opposition complete 62.5% of their pass attempts (325-of-520 for 3,800 yards) against them in games with Borland on the field, an average of 11.69 yards per pass completion and 7.31 yards per attempt. He recorded 85 third-down stops and 14 more on fourth-down plays vs. the aerial game, as he also rerouted/jammed his coverage assignment away from 80 of those tosses (39.21%), in addition to collecting three interceptions and 15 pass deflections.

Prior to his arrival at the University of Wisconsin in 2009, Borland was a four-sport standout at Archbishop Alter High School, where the Ohio product excelled as a linebacker and running back on the gridiron for the Knights. As a sophomore, he posted 17 tackles and ran for 241 yards for a squad that ranked ninth in the state with its 14-1 record.

The following season, Borland garnered All-Greater Catholic-North League and All-Region IV honors, as he tallied 633 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt. He also performed as a wide receiver and on special teams, where he punted (37.0-yard average) and averaged 20.5 yards as a kickoff returner in 2007, guiding the Knights to an 11-1 record.

As a senior, Borland received All-Greater Catholic Conference Player of the Year was again a jack-of-all-trades for head coach Ed Domsitz, helping the Knights rank third in the state and 30th in the nation after registering a 13-2 record. The team captain and MVP was a member of the All-State squad, adding Defensive Player of the Year accolades from in 2008.

During his final campaign, Borland recorded 72 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries at middle linebacker. He totaled 1,230 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, averaging 12.0 yards per carry. He also boasted a 15.6-yard average on 10 receptions, handled kickoff duties and produced a 42.0-yard average as a punter.

As a member of the Knights' track-and-field team, Borland finished fifth in the shot put at the state finals during his junior campaign, recording a season-best toss of 47'-5.75" during the indoor schedule (OATCCC State Indoor Trials) and 55'-10.75" at the Ohio State Outdoor Championship.

As a senior, Borland captured the shot put title at the Southwest-Dayton District Outdoor Division II Meet. Two weeks later, at the OHSAA Division II Finals, he recorded a career-best toss of 61'-0.75". He also lettered in basketball and tennis.

Borland signed his national letter-of-intent to attend the University of Wisconsin on June 24th, 2008. He would become the fourth son of Zebbie and Jeff Borland to compete in sports at the collegiate level. His oldest brother, Mark lettered twice in basketball at Wittenberg University (2000-02), where he led the team in assists (91 in 2000-01; 120 in 2001-02) and steals (43 in 2001-02), averaging 7.7 points while posting 79 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 26-4 record and the North Coast Athletic Conference title during his final season.

Mark was joined at Wittenberg by his brother, Matt, who excelled for the Tigers' soccer team, twice garnering All-American honors. The three-time All-Great Lakes Region and four-time All-NCAC choice, he led the team in assists during all four seasons with the varsity (2005-08). He also paced the squad in points (22 as a junior and 14 as a senior) and goals (eight in 2005). The two-time team captain and three-time MVP set school season (13 in 2008) and career (30) records for assists and his 84 total points placed second on the Tigers' all-time record chart.

Matt was not the first Borland sibling to play college soccer, though. From 2003-06, John was a member of the U.S. Military Academy (Army) soccer team. As a senior, he earned All-Patriot League honors, as the midfielder ranked seventh in the league for goals (six) and tenth in points (14) during the 2006 schedule.

Wisconsin recruiter Joe Rudolph unearthed the "hidden gem" of the Badgers 2009 recruiting class when Borland enrolled at the university. The true freshman patiently waited for his "time" to shine on defense, as he was a terrific "gunner" for the special team coverage units during the first seven games of the schedule. He recorded 13 tackles with that squad.

Borland also showed off his versatility, blocking a punt that was recovered by another Badger for a touchdown, in addition to returning seven short kickoffs. He was also pressed into service as a kicker, connecting on all three extra point attempts in the Hawaii clash. His performance would force the coaches to insert the youngster into the starting lineup for the final six contests.

Borland was an instant spark for an injury-depleted defensive unit. He first took over weak-side outside linebacker chores when Mike Taylor was lost for the season due to a knee injury, but later settled in on the strong-side. He would go on to earn Freshman All-American first-team honors, in addition to being named Big 10 Conference Freshman of the Year.

In six starting assignments during the 2009 schedule, Borland delivered 54 tackles (36 solos), fifth-best on the team. He finished second on the squad with five sacks and third with 10.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he also posted eight pressures and set a school season-record with five forced fumbles. His three fumble recoveries tied for third on the UW annual record chart, as he also picked off a pass and deflected two others.

Prior to inserting Borland into the starting lineup, Wisconsin had allowed opponents to average 114.57 yards per game on the ground. With Borland on the outside, the Badgers would give up just an average of 57.5 yards per game rushing with the freshman playing with the first unit.

On 33 plays made vs. the running attack, Borland held opponents to minus 27 yards, an average loss of 0.82 yards per carry. Against the rest of the UW defense in games started by #44, the opposition boasted an average of 2.45 yards per carry, compared to 3.27 yards per attempt before Borland became a member of the starting lineup. He also showed off his pass coverage skills, rerouting his assignment away from 12-of-36 passes targeted into his area, yielding just nine receptions for 51 yards.

Borland was the only sophomore in the nation to be named to the 2010 watch lists for the

Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, but it would become a "lost season" for the sophomore. He had undergone surgery in January to repair a torn labrum and missed all of spring practice. He played in Wisconsin's opener at UNLV but reinjured the left shoulder, sitting out the next week vs. San Jose State.

Borland returned to the field for the third contest, vs. Arizona State, but he re-injured his shoulder and would not return to the field for the rest of the schedule. "After talking with our training staff and with Chris, we decided that the best thing for Chris was to shut him down for the rest of the year," then Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "Obviously Chris is a tremendous player and a ferocious competitor but after looking at all the options, everyone agreed this was the only option for him."

Borland worked feverishly throughout his rehabilitation, as he would also undergo a surgical procedure on his right shoulder during the 2010 off-season. He was granted a medical hardship for his sophomore campaign, but returned to the field with an outstanding performance as a junior.

Borland took over middle linebacker duties in 2011, receiving All-American and All-Big 10 Conference honors, as his 143 tackles (64 solos) placed 12th on the school season-record list. He started all 14 games at his new position, added 2.5 sacks and 19.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage, which tied for ninth on the Badgers' annual record chart. He had five pressures, deflected five passes, picked off two others and caused six fumbles.

The redshirt sophomore produced 116 of his hits vs. the ground game, as teams managed just 1.32 yards per carry vs. the "mike man," compared to 5.20 yards per attempt vs. the rest of the UW defensive unit. He made 11 third-down tackles, two more on fourth-down snaps and was credited with 28 tackles inside the red zone, including 16 on goal-line plays while delivering six touchdown-saving tackles and stopping runners at the line of scrimmage 19 times vs. the opposing rushing attack.

Showing pass coverage skills usually seen from safeties and cornerbacks, Borland had just 20-of-65 passes targeted into his area caught (30.77%) in 2011, as he limited his pass coverage assignment to averages of 5.20 yards per completion and a league-low 1.60 yards per attempt. He rerouted/jammed receivers away from 20 of those tosses, as he registered 23 third-down stops and two more on fourth-down plays vs. the aerial game.

Again named a candidate for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Lott IMPACT Trophy entering the 2012 season, Borland missed the Ohio State and Penn State games after he suffered a hamstring injury during the second half action vs. Indiana. He still recorded 104 tackles (56 solos) with 4.5 sacks and 10 stops-for-loss. He also caused three fumbles and recovered four others (including one via a blocked punt) and batted away six pass attempts.

The All-Big 10 Conference middle linebacker boated seven touchdown-saving tackles, 13 third-down stops and one more on a fourth-down snap during 89 plays made vs. the ground game in 2012. Runners managed just 1.27 yards per attempt vs. the junior, as the rest of the defense yielded 4.42 yards per rushing attempt vs. the opposition.

Borland delivered 13 of those hits inside the red zone, stopped ball carriers at the line of scrimmage for no gain on 16 of those attempts. In pass coverage, he had 48 passes targeted into his area, as receivers managed just 15 grabs for 124 yards, an average of 8.27 yards per completion and 2.58 yards per attempt. He had 20 third-down stops, three more on fourth-down snaps and rerouted his coverage assignments away from 19 passes vs. the aerial game.

Only the second linebacker in school history to earn first-team All-American honors, Borland saw his resume expand in 2013, as the new coaching staff incorporated a 3-4 base defense for his final season. Called by the new staff, "a playmaking machine," the senior team captain was looking forward to yet another position change, but missed two games with a nagging hamstring injury. He still managed to lead the Badgers with 102 tackles, the third consecutive year he registered at least 100 stops.

While Borland enjoyed the position shift, "I think I had a little bit more freedom, can cause a little bit more disruption," the senior said. "At times in a 4-3, a gap-accountability defense, you have to go do your role. This defense gives you a little more freedom to go after the ball a little bit more in the middle, because the guys up front will all be two-gapping ... so it allows you at linebacker to stay cleaner, not have offensive linemen coming up on you."

The funny thing is, that's how Borland tried to play as a freshman, his first year at linebacker, after being mostly a running back in high school. As much as the coaches yelled at him to stay in his gap, Borland had a hankering to chase the football, which he couldn't resist. "My freshman year, I applied that philosophy to the 4-3, which is not right," he said sheepishly. "I was just running out there, kind of like a chicken with his head cut off."

Most professional scouts that have seen game films of Borland agree that he has learned the finer points of his position. He is an athlete, that those scouts feel has combined his range, raw power and field savvy that with a studious approach that should make him one of the top linebackers in the National Football League in the next few years.

"His athleticism is off the charts," new Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. "A lot of things, I would say, come easy to him. But things coming easy to him haven't stopped him from working hard to be the best. He knows our defense probably better than anybody on the whole defensive side of the football."

Borland studied video of Utah State's defense, where Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda coached in 2012. Three years ago, Bobby Wagner played the other inside position and is coming off a standout first season with the Seattle Seahawks. The key to it all is Borland, who will get a chance to read and react, which plays to his strengths.

"The philosophy in any 3-4 is to press the team sideways, versus filling gaps downhill," Borland said. "You're a little more patient initially and you read a little more and diagnose a little bit more, which I enjoy."


Borland has appeared 52 games at Wisconsin, starting 45 contests — two at weak-side outside linebacker, four at strong-side outside, two at boundary outside and his final 37 appearances in the middle…Recorded 410 tackles (225 solos), with 17 sacks for minus 103 yards, 50 stops for losses totaling 172 yards and 20 quarterback pressures, adding nine fumble recoveries, 15 forced fumbles and 15 pass break-ups, in addition to gaining 41 yards on three interception returns…Blocked a punt that he advanced 25 yards, advancing one fumble recovery nine yards…Gained 106 yards on seven kickoff returns and was successful on three extra point kicks.

Scout NFL Network Top Stories