All good things come to an end, but Wisconsin lost a lot of good things Saturday.
Five cornerstones of the Wisconsin football team wore their helmets emblazoned with the familiar motion “W” for the last time in Mobile, Ala., but did it in a way that defined their four years in Madison.
Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland, Jacob Pedersen, Dezmen Southward and James White began their path to making a NFL roster last week participating in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
All had question marks regarding their potential to produce at the professional level whether it is their size, speed or quickness, but as they have during their time in Madison, all five players let their play do the talking.
Borland, who has the potential to be selected the highest of all the Badgers in the draft, has to prove to scouts that he is able to take on NFL-size bodies with his 5-foot-11 frame — measuring in with the shortest wingspan of all the linebackers at the Senior Bowl — and true to form the All-American proved his critics wrong.
The three-time first team All-Big Ten linebacker caught the attention of scouts and analysts including ESPN’s draft analyst Todd McShay who tweeted: “WISC LB Borland is an animal. Great instincts. Strong this wk as rusher and in cvg (coverage). Doesn’t have measurables but who cares. He’s a player!” Wednesday during the Senior Bowl practice week.
After a full week of practice in Alabama, Borland had everyone in his corner as he was named the most outstanding linebacker of the practices.
Abbrederis, Pedersen, Southward and White all helped their draft stocks, as well, turning heads during the week of practice.
Abbrederis quieted concerns of his height and quickness, excelling during practice and drawing a comparison to Miami Dolphins slot receiver Brian Hartline from Senior Bowl Director Phil Savage.
Though the former walk-on impressed scouts during drills, Abbrederis wasn’t able to showcase his talent in the game itself after a tweaked hamstring kept him from playing Saturday.
Southward earned the praise of ESPN draft analysts making their list of Senior Bowl standouts as the most versatile defensive back.
While all of the Wisconsin players made an impression during the practice week, it was on game day where the Badgers left their biggest mark.
Playing for the North side, Wisconsin players made an impact on both sides of the ball. White scored the North’s only touchdown of the game on a sweep left from a yard out that would look very familiar to Badger fans and carried the brunt of the load for the North side with a game-high 11 carries for 62 yards.
Pedersen made the most of his opportunities, hauling in four catches for 46 yards, while on the other side of the ball Southward had two tackles and Borland continued to polish his week-long performance in Mobile with a game-high eight tackles including a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble — no surprise there.
Borland was one of two players in the Senior Bowl chosen to keep a day-by-day blog where he would update it with entries detailing what he and his teammates did each day. As always, his character outshines his play.
“I think all-in-all it was a productive week. It was a joy to get to know a lot of great people, a lot of great players and the staffs of the respective teams and all the personnel that was down here. I really enjoyed myself and I tried my hardest,” Borland wrote in his blog.
What the Senior Bowl showed all of the scouts and analysts that were following the players in Mobile all week is what Wisconsin fans already know; these players will work harder than anyone on the field to play as best they can, no matter what jersey they are wearing.
That has to be pretty appealing to NFL scouts. Will isn’t something that can be taught to players, it is something that is inherently possessed and when that will is combined with the ability of the players that donned the Wisconsin helmets last Saturday, it can be a combination that leads to years of success on and off of the field.
I can’t be certain that all five of these players will have outstanding careers in the NFL, but the week these guys put together in Alabama wouldn’t make me want to bet against them.