April 9, 2010

Borland likes depth at linebacker

MADISON - Chris Borland tweaked his shoulder during the Ohio State game of last season. Though the injury required off-season surgery, it didn't hamper the true freshman's ability on the field as he finished his rookie season as the Big Ten's best freshman.

Now, as the rest of the team participates in spring drills, Borland is focused on recovering from a January shoulder surgery. If the sophomore linebacker stays on his current pace, he should be back and ready for summer conditioning.

At the conclusion of a recent practice. BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Borland. The following is a question and answer with Borland.

First of all, how is the shoulder doing and how is rehab going?

Borland: It feels great. I'm starting to workout pretty hard now. I'm sprinting and doing some linebacker drills so that's good for it. It's kind of the next level now. I'm trying to get athletic movements and get them in.

Was this something that was hampering you throughout the season?

Borland: Yeah, pretty much all year. I had a tear since high school, but after the Ohio State game is where it went from pain to an injury. It kind of hampered me all year.

You still played through it? There was no way you were going to…

Borland: Well, I had already used my eligibility. It wasn't terrible, it was just kind of aggravating. But yeah, I absolutely played through it.

That's pretty good. What does it say to you when you have an injury like that and still go out and win Big Ten Freshman of the Year?

Borland: I don't think it affected my play too much. It was just pain. I'm looking forward to playing with no pain. But I was able to use it, it just hurt. Hopefully I'll have more success this year.

When was your surgery?

Borland: January 5th.

Okay, what is the timetable after that?

Borland: We're looking at early June, six months. Right now we're at the three-month mark so from here on out it's strengthening and getting it ready for contact again. There's a good range of motion and not a lot of daily pain so that's a positive sign.

Does it still get sore?

Borland: After rehab, but that's a good soreness. That means you're working it. Not really during daily activities like taking my book bag to school or anything like that. I'm feeling good about it.

From your point of view, obviously you're not practicing, but are you impressed with what you've seen so far with the linebackers?

Borland: I like that a lot of the guys are growing up fast. I think Mike Taylor and I being out, and Culmer St. Jean being out was a blessing in disguise, not necessarily for us but for those guys behind us that are getting a lot of reps.

A.J. Fenton is growing up fast and Kevin Claxton is making the transition really well. Those guys will give us depth, which is very important in this league.

Have you ever made a position change over your career?

Borland: Yeah, I did a little bit of everything in high school. Coming here, I played a little bit of linebacker my senior year but it was mostly running back and other offensive positions. Last year was almost a position change for me.

But I think it's different when you make the transition from high school to college because you know you are learning the college version of linebacker. Sometimes guys can develop bad habits in high school and it's like switching positions when you know it's the same position in college.

Claxton has got a lot on his plate coming from safety, but he's doing a great job with it.

How impressive is that? You know what it takes, you have to learn a whole new playbook basically.

Borland: The playbook, and even more so, it's easy to learn the playbook but you have footwork habits as a safety, using your hands as a safety, the blocks of the safety have to be completely thrown away and changed. I've been impressed with the way Kevin has been handling his business.

You hit on it a little bit with the depth on the team. Obviously you never want to see a guy get hurt like you and Mike and having to miss spring camp, but this could be a good thing down the road couldn't it?

Borland: Yeah, I think running back is another good example. John Clay is out so Montee Ball and Zach Brown are getting more reps and Kyle Zuleger has stepped in. He's been impressive as well. Having a limited number of guys gives other guys a chance.

Obviously you guys lose Jaevery McFadden from last year, but do you see Blake and Culmer, as well as you and Mike, sitting in that leadership role?

Borland: Absolutely. I think Blake and Culmer are really leading our core. Mike and I roles this year might be more lead by example, be good followers of Blake and Culmer and the rest of the guys on defense like J.J. Watt and Jay Valai. Culmer and Blake have done a great job so far and I don't see anything changing.

Obviously you have the shoulder injury, but is that limiting your kicking practice?

Borland: A little bit. I don't have a counter arm, but I've been kicking a little bit. I obviously don't want to hurt it kicking because it's not my primary position, but I've been able to get in a little bit just to stay fresh.

It might not have set in yet, but have you had time to reflect on what you accomplished last year coming in and your whole story?

Borland: It's a nice thought, but the success motivates me that much more because I don't want to let myself or anyone else down. From day to day it's a grind and at this level you're always looking to the next season and what's coming up with what you've got on your plate. It really wouldn't help me to sit back and think of that.

It's not like we had a great year. We had a pretty good year, but nothing like we want to have.

I was talking to Mike (Taylor), too, is there going to be a problem trying to do too much and trying to get back too fast?

Borland: You know, I think Mike and I will have pushed the envelope enough by then. When it's our clear date we'll be 100 percent. He's in there, I see him every day doing rehab so we're both working hard at it. I think we'll be ready. That won't be an issue.

Does coach Ben Herbert have a set rehab schedule for you or is that through the trainers?

Borland: That's through the trainers. It's set every morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes I get in the pool so it varies. I'm in there six days a week.

Does it get tiresome or mentally tough?

Borland: Yeah, I've thought about this too and it could be an advantage for me. It's kind of made me more mentally tough having to come in for an hour plus a day for rehab. It can kind of be a pain in the neck, but it's mental toughness and that type of thing. Maybe that will translate when I'm off rehab. I will come watch more film and be able to handle my studies better. It's kind of made me more organized and mature. So it's good from that aspect.

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