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April 25, 2014
Spring Wrap Up: Linebackers
MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.
Today we'll move on to the linebackers, after I broke down the defensive line on Thursday.
The inside spots seem pretty solid
Derek Landisch started two games last year for the Badgers and split time with Conor O'Neill as Wisconsin's second inside linebacker, playing next to Chris Borland. But with Borland and O'Neill out of the picture Landisch has moved into a starting role. He generated some buzz early in his career by earning playing time right away as a true freshman, and was even considered to be a younger version of Borland for a time. Now the Badgers will get to see what he can do as a full-time starter.
On the other side, Marcus Trotter looks like the clear frontrunner to succeed Borland. He played in five games for the Badgers and started against Iowa when Borland was dealing with a hamstring injury, and Trotter acquitted himself well for the most part. He'll need to work on improving his range if he wants to truly replace Borland, but Trotter had a solid spring and Wisconsin's other inside options probably need more time to develop.
Joe Schobert will play outside linebacker (probably)
Schobert has played all over the place for the Badgers over the last year. He started the season as an outside field linebacker, but the Badgers decided to try and move him inside to try and get more athletic at every position. But the Badgers moved Michael Caputo back to safety halfway through spring, and Schobert had to shift back to the outside as a result.
Schobert said he learned more about the defense as a whole from playing on the inside for two weeks, but I think he's a better fit on the outside anyway. Schobert has some smooth pass rushing moves in his arsenal, and he'll probably be able to use those more if he's playing on the outside.
Everything else is fluid
Vince Biegel seems locked in as Wisconsin's boundary side outside linebacker, but the rest of their two-deep is up in the air -- thanks in large part to all of the position moves they made in the offseason. Michael Trotter and Keelon Brookins were moved from safety to linebacker, and Leon Jacobs was moved from the outside to the inside.
Jack Cichy and Jake Rademacher also took reps on the inside, and the Badgers are still trying to see what they have in Jesse Hayes, who moved from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 linebacker when Wisconsin's new staff took over. Personally I'm curious to see how Jacobs adapts to playing on the inside- I thought he was a good fit for what the Badgers were looking for as an edge rusher, so we'll see if a summer of offseason work will help him get the basics of the position down so he can be more of a force in Wisconsin's pass-rush this fall.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.