By Tom Lea
When it became apparent how buried Kevin Claxton was at the safety position it made sense to move him to linebacker. He's got that type of size - 6-foot-1, 233 pounds - and never shies away from contact. You want that in a linebacker, particularly on the edge as a potential blitzer or run stuffer.
The other thing about Claxton that should encourage fans is the fact that he should be plenty hungry to start. He's entering his final year as a Badger and really hasn't seen the amount of playing time he would have liked at this juncture in his career. Having been featured mostly as a special teams player throughout his freshman and sophomore year, Claxton earned his first start when the Badgers walloped Michigan inside the Big House. He played well.
When fall camp opens later this summer Claxton will vie for a starting job alongside both Mike Taylor and Chris Borland. He'll have a stable of young players striving for the same starting nod, but with his physicality and explosiveness, it seems as though Claxton has the upper hand. Then when you have the type of hunger and mindset that he has - one that is more than desperate to get on the field - it will do nothing but help the defense and team in general. That is why Claxton makes this list. Another hungry potential playmaker off the edge will make things easier not only for the other linebackers but the defensive line as well.
Though he missed one week (three practices) during spring camp, it seems as though Claxton was able to utilize every opportunity he had throughout March and April to build momentum heading into the summer. Should he have solid gains during conditioning, particularly pertaining to his speed, Claxton may be one of the better surprises of the 2011 season.
UP NEXT: No. 20 on our list is a player that plays an important position for a unit that has to replace the No. 11 pick from the latest NFL Draft.