Lucas at Large: Borland watches, White puts on show

When someone competes with as much passion and energy as UW linebacker Chris Borland, the 2009 Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, you can imagine how challenging it would be for Borland to separate himself from the competition as a spectator.

That was the case last Saturday when Borland, who was anything but detached emotionally from his Badger teammates in East Lansing, Mich., was relegated to watching the Wisconsin-Michigan State game on television in his off-campus Madison apartment.

"It was difficult," said Borland, who has been lost for the season with a shoulder injury. "I had a hard time watching the very end of the game because we were about to lose. I've never really watched a game as intensely as I watched that game and I've been a football fan forever. It was tough."

When Borland reinjured his shoulder against Arizona State (Sept. 18), there were some uncertainty about his future after it was determined that he wouldn't play again this season.

The one certainty was that he would need surgery.

"Had to be done," he said.

Exploring all of his options, Borland was examined by two elite surgeons, Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and Dr. James P. Bradley in Pittsburgh, Pa.

A win-win.

"It was a positive experience," Borland said.

After careful deliberation, Borland and his family opted for Dr. Bradley, the team physician of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The surgery is scheduled for next Wednesday, Oct. 13.

"Both are obviously world renowned shoulder specialists and I felt they were equally qualified," Borland said. "Both would have been great options. But since Pittsburgh is just a five-hour drive from my house (in Kettering, Ohio), and my family can come out, that's what tipped the scales for Dr. Bradley."

Is there any level of pre-surgery anxiety for Borland?

"It's a little different surgery than I had last January," he said. "And it might be longer (rehab) but I do have a little more time (to recover). I've been through it once, so I kind of know what to expect. I'm not really worried about anything. I'm in great hands."

As a concession to the time that he will spent away from campus and the classroom, Borland will pick up directed studies. "I'll be writing some long papers," he said.

Borland will be on the sidelines for Saturday's renewal of the Border Battle between the Badgers and the Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. And he's also counting on returning to Madison on Oct. 15, just two days after surgery. You didn't think he'd miss the Ohio State game on Oct. 16, did you?

*****
James White's two touchdown runs against the Spartans might have looked the same, because he bounced both plays to the right side of the formation. But they were different in execution.

On first-and-10 from the MSU 16, this is what he saw:

"It was a blitz where they brought the middle linebacker and either the Sam or Will linebacker though the middle and the safety was trailing. I saw the safety creeping up, so I figured it was going to be a bounce play because the coaches always tell us, 'That's the extra man' and you have to beat that man through the hole to get around the corner. As soon as I saw that I read my blocks, and I saw an open lane outside and I just ran to the pylon. I saw the seam and I just took it."

On first-and-10 from the MSU 34, this is what he saw:

"It was a zone play. I took my read steps and it seemed like everybody crashed to the left side because the zone was designed left. When I peeked right, I saw another big opening. At halftime, coach (Bret Bielema) said that we had to make plays in order to win this game. So I figured I could make a play off of that. As soon as I made the cut, I ran as fast as I could. Typically, we probably don't cut those zone plays back across the field unless we see it's wide open.  I saw the end zone and I just ran as fast as I could to get there to try and make a big play for my team."

White left a positive first impression on Michigan State's All-American linebacker Greg Jones.

"So fast," Jones said of White, who had 10 carries for 98 yards. "A very fast back. A switch-up for Wisconsin because they've always had big backs. It was different. He broke out on us twice."

So how fast is White? Or is White's quickness more of a factor than his speed?

"I'd describe myself as being quicker,'' White said. "I'm probably in and out of my cuts quicker (than John Clay and Montee Ball), but each is capable of making quick cuts. I'm smaller than they are. I probably look a lot faster than I am. I have more quickness than straight-line speed."

White would seem to be a quick learner when it comes to the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry and the Paul Bunyan Axe, which is displayed for each practice this week.

"I know this game carries a lot of tradition," said White, a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I knew a little bit about the game before I came here. But today in our team meeting coach Bielema talked about the tradition and how much this game means to everyone."

White grinned and added, "I love rivalry games."
ON WISCONSIN