UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Healthy Borland enjoying new role, aggressive scheme

FB_110827_Borland_Chris.jpegStretching. Icing. Massage.

It has all become second nature for UW linebacker Chris Borland.

"It would feel weird not to do it,'' he said. "It's just part of my day.''

Three times a day during training camp.

"It will equate to about an hour,'' he said. "I'm pretty used to it.''

Borland's daily routine is the result of the surgery that he's had on both shoulders.

"It's more pro-active than anything,'' said Borland, a third-year sophomore from Kettering, Ohio.

The Badgers have had a plan for Borland since practices began in early August.

"We walked the line between getting rest and getting reps,'' Borland said.

That has been critical to getting him ready for the Sept. 1 opener against UNLV.

"The coaches were really smart,'' he said, "and I just followed their orders.''

Going into training camp, UW linebackers coach Dave Huxtable outlined his needs.

"The big thing with Chris is that he has missed a lot of football being out last year and last spring,'' Huxtable said. "The number one thing was getting him back into football shape.''

The Badgers have been very cautious with Borland -- which has tested his patience at times.

"It was tough,'' said Borland with a sigh, "especially not having played much football last year.''

The toughest part was adjusting to the early contact.

"After the first day of hitting there was soreness,'' he said. "But that's just from hitting for two hours against our big offensive line after not having hit for over a year.

"I was a little concerned after that, but it was nothing serious.''

In addition to getting himself physically ready for the season, Borland has also been adjusting to playing mike linebacker. He played outside when he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009.

Huxtable believes Borland has all the qualities needed to play in the middle.

"He's instinctive,'' Huxtable said. "He's a leader. He's smart. He's got a good football IQ. And he's a tough kid; a kid that likes the kind of responsibility that comes with being a mike linebacker.''

Borland played very little on defense at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering. He was primarily a running back or slot receiver. As a senior, he saw spot duty on defense.

"I played some safety and linebacker,'' said Borland, who was not asked to fill a gap. "I either blitzed or I guarded a guy; I wasn't slotted in the hole.''

There weren't many college recruiters who thought that he could play for a BCS program. But those who did saw Borland as a linebacker. He saw the same thing and was prepared for the transition.

"I feel like a basketball player who develops a skill set of a guard (at an early age),'' Borland said, "and who grows late and becomes a 'big' later (Not unlike former UW 'baller Jon Leuer).

"I feel like that's what happened with me from running back to linebacker.''

Which helps to account for his playmaking abilities.

Borland, a hardcore competitor, likes the idea of playing more aggressive team defense, too.

"We don't want to be known as a bend-but-don't-break defense,'' he said. "I don't think any defensive player likes that mentality. We're getting after it more this year.''

It was suggested to Borland that he might be less vulnerable to shoulder injuries at mike (middle) linebacker because he would generally be more squared-up to the ball-carrier. He agreed.

"But the onus is on me to not fly around and be wild; I can't have my arms out and be reaching,'' he said. "They say it's style of play. It's more about technique and not getting overextended.''

It's more about being on the field when needed, too; and shouldering responsibilities, so to speak; hence the daily three-step routine. Stretching. Icing. Massage.

"It would really feel strange not to do it,'' he conceded.