Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Linebackers anchor Badger ‘D’

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald file photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]FB_No2_JS_FILE[/media-credit]

In 2006, the Wisconsin football team boasted one of the
stingiest defenses in the Big Ten. But after struggling much of last season, it
looks to get back on track this year, starting with the guys in the

Jonathan Casillas, a preseason first team all-Big Ten
selection, is one of the most experienced members of the senior-dominated
team. Expected to shine in his final season with the team, Casillas
injured his knee just two weeks before the end of fall camp, putting his career
at Wisconsin in jeopardy.


“I thought my career was over, at least I’d have to sit
out for this year,” Casillas said. “I was thinking the worst.”

Fortunately for Casillas, the knee injury would only
sideline him for the remainder of camp and the first two games of the season.

Despite having one of its main playmakers absent for the first pair of games,
the defense knew that other players would be able to step up in his
absence. In addition to starters Jaevery McFadden and DeAndre Levy, Blake
Sorensen — a sophomore from Eden Prairie, Minn. — was called upon to step in
for Casillas. 

Although he had never started a game on defense for the
Badgers before the 2008 season, Sorensen excelled in his opportunity at
linebacker. In the opener against Akron, Sorensen recorded four tackles,
including a five-yard stop behind the line of scrimmage, as the UW defense held
the Zips to just 70 yards on the ground. The following week against
Marshall, Sorensen recorded three more tackles, paving the way for a Badger
defense that held Darius Marshall and the Thundering Herd again to just 70
rushing yards.

Although Casillas was forced to remain on the sidelines, he was still able to
help Sorensen out verbally. Noticing some of the minor errors that
Sorensen was making on the field, Casillas was able to give the underclassman a
few pointers on how to correct his mistakes.

The advice that Casillas gave paid big dividends for the

“Sorensen plays a lot for us, and I think he did a
great job behind me,” Casillas said. “I think if I’m not ready to go
this Saturday, which most likely I will be able to, I think he’s ready to go

In addition to proving himself as a reliable backup to Casillas, Sorensen also
made quite an impression on the coaching staff.

“Blake did a great job in his place and we’re excited
about him,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dave Doeren said.

Sorensen’s success in the first two games can’t be solely attributed to him or
Casillas. According to Casillas, both McFadden — the leading tackler on the
team thus far — and Levy also gave Sorensen some useful advice. With his
performances, Sorensen has seemed to put away any doubt about the future of the
linebacking core. 

“He’s still young, but I think he put it in coach
Doeren’s mind that — hopefully nothing will happen to me, but if something does
— they can count on him again, and next year they got nothing to worry
about,” Casillas said.

Even before Sorensen steps onto the field on Saturday at Fresno State, Casillas
already has some advice for his teammate.

“Make [Fresno] our home,” Casillas said of the
theme for his next speech. “We play good at home, so why don’t we just add
that to our edge?”

In addition to the bond that the defense shares, its success
can also be attributed to the way they play together as a unit.

“We’ve been playing together for years,” Casillas
said. “We have so much chemistry. I make sure I tell the D-line every day
I love them. They’re my brothers, and I’m ready to fight for them any time any
day, any Saturday.”

According to Sorensen, Casillas’ knowledge and vocal leadership is part of what
is preparing him to be a leader next year.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Sorensen said of
his fellow linebacker.

With Casillas leaving next year, the tips and lessons that
he leaves with Sorensen can only benefit him. Sorensen said he will be glad to
embrace a leadership role next year, and with himself, Elijah Hodge and
McFadden all returning next year, the defense may again continue to be a force
to be reckoned with.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *