Lucas at Large: Young Landisch making the most of his opportunities

FB_111028_Landisch_Derek.jpgWisconsin coach Bret Bielema will likely be listening to Kid Rock when the Badgers arrive at Ohio Stadium early Saturday afternoon for their walk-through. That's a game day staple.

Less than three hours before kickoff when the chartered buses depart from the team hotel and return to the 102,000-seat Horseshoe, he will be tuned into U2. That's also part of his routine.

Neither Bob Ritchie, nor Bono will show up on Derek Landisch's play list. The UW freshman linebacker favors Five Finger Death Punch and Disturbed, a couple of heavy metal bands.

That's how he gets charged up for a game.

"It's the same stuff that I've been listening to since my junior and senior year of high school,'' said Landisch, a four-time letter winner at Hartland Arrowhead.

"You find a song that you like and it gets you going -- it gets the heart racing and the blood pressure boiling. It gets me in an angry mood.''

The conflict is that the soft-spoken, polite Landisch could be mistaken for an Eagle Scout.

"He's got a little Eddie Haskell in him,'' Bielema kiddingly suggested.

The reference was to the TV character in the old "Leave it to Beaver'' series.

Landisch does seem to play with a little bit of an edge. During a recent practice, he tackled a scout team tailback and flung him to the turf so hard that the runner threw the football at him.

Landisch ran back to his position and got ready for the next snap. "He does remind me a little bit of Chris Borland,'' Bielema said. "He's not as big as Chris but he's real slippery and real feisty.''

As a prep, Landisch wore No. 44, which is Borland's number with the Badgers.

"I get that question a lot,'' Landisch said about being compared to Borland. "Chris has proven himself on the college level. That's something I haven't done yet.''

Borland, a third-year sophomore, and Landisch room together on the road. They'll have plenty to talk about Friday night since Borland is an Ohioan; a native of Kettering, 80 miles from Columbus.

"We talk about everything, life and football -- he's a good role model,'' Landisch said. "If I can, I pick his brain a little bit. He's a great guy to look up to and he has definitely helped me out a lot.''

Whereas Borland has bulked up to 245 pounds, Landisch has dropped down to 220 from the grind of his first season in college football. But it's fair to say that he has been playing "bigger.''

Bielema had so much confidence in Landisch that he put him on the field in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska in passing situations to help contain quarterbacks Taylor Martinez, a sprinter.

Borland rushed off one edge, and Landisch off the other.

Despite giving up anywhere from 80 to 100-plus pounds to offensive tackles, Landisch is starting to understand and learn the nuances of being an undersized pass rusher.

When he got his first look at the UW offensive line in training camp, Landisch admitted, "They were the biggest people that I've ever seen in my life. But I'm used to it now, I'm used to the size.''

A number of his teammates, including Borland and senior defensive tackle Patrick Butrym, have passed along some pointers. "That really means a lot to me,'' Landisch said.

What he has going for him is what Borland has going for him: leverage. "You have to play with your hands and stay low,'' he said. "I try using my height and lower center of gravity to my advantage.''

Landisch has been particularly grateful for Borland's input.

"If I get blocked on a play, Chris will tell come up to me and tell me what I did wrong,'' he said. "Or if I do well, he will tell me what I did right, so he has definitely helped me.''

Last Saturday, Landisch had a chance to make a play on special teams when he came close to blocking a punt off the foot of Michigan State's Mike Sadler. But he failed to execute his technique.

"It's kind of disappointing because it was a fundamental error,'' Landisch said. "I had my hands too high. Coach Bielema is always talking about shooting our hands out, instead of up.

"I thought I had it blocked. That's what coach always talks about, 'Expect to come free.' I will live and learn from and it will make me stronger.''

It has been well documented on how quarterback Russell Wilson is a strong proponent of visualization. That also holds true for Landisch.

"I'll visualize the stadium and what it's going to be like,'' he said, "even though I have no idea since I've never played in Ohio Stadium. But it's something I picture and think about a lot.

"We expect to do well. But we talk about going into games expecting adversity and overcoming adversity, so it's definitely important to visualize, 'If this happens, I'm going to do this.'''

That's another characteristic that has endeared Landisch to Bielema. "He's very very smart,'' Bielema said, "He knows what he's going to do out there, and he has a great memory.''

Not so much this week; not after the heartbreaking loss at Michigan State.

"Coach B talks about moving on,'' Landisch said. "That game can either make you stronger or weaker. If you learn from it, you can be a stronger and a better football player.''

"Believe'' is not only the second studio album for Disturbed, but it might be the word of the week for the Badgers. Believe in yourself. Believe in your teammates. Believe in the plan.
ON WISCONSIN