An already banged-up Wisconsin defense took a major blow yesterday, as head coach Bret Bielema announced starting outside linebacker Chris Borland will miss the rest of the season after re-injuring his surgically repaired left shoulder.
“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,” Bielema said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. “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.”
Since Borland did not play in more than 30 percent of Wisconsin’s games in the first half of the season, he is eligible to apply for a medical hardship at the end of season. If granted, Borland will retain three years of eligibility.
Borland played in two of the Badgers’ first three games – the season opener at UNLV and last Saturday’s game against Arizona State. However, on his sixth snap of the ASU game, Borland re-aggravated the shoulder while diving to tackle Cameron Marshall and left the game gingerly holding his left arm. He did not return.
Against UNLV, Borland showed why he was last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, recording five tackles – two for loss – and one sack. In 2009, Borland finished with 54 tackles – 10.5 for loss – five sacks, five fumbles caused, three fumbles recovered and one interception. Borland initially had surgery to repair a torn labrum in the shoulder in January, and re-injured the shoulder against UNLV. After sitting out the Badgers’ week two matchup with San Jose State, Borland returned to action wearing two shoulder braces against ASU.
In Borland’s absence, senior Blake Sorenson will likely step into a starting role in the base defense. Already a key member of the linebacker rotation, Sorensen is currently second on the team with 16 tackles. Against UNLV, Sorenson was UW’s co-defensive player of the week, and one week later against SJSU, he recorded his second career interception.
Borland will be especially missed on third downs, where Wisconsin likes to run its “Badger” 3-3-5 package. The 3-3-5 formation allowed Borland to focus on rushing the quarterback and was very much built around his skill set. After Borland exited the ASU game, Sorenson, A.J. Fenton and Kevin Rouse were the three linebackers in the package. For the rest of the season, defensive end David Gilbert may lineup at linebacker in the package, and linebacker Kevin Claxton will also see increased playing time.