Grey-shirt and walk-on Marcus Trotter has stepped up to claim that spot.
Just six months ago, Marcus— the formerly less heralded of the twins Michael and Marcus — was given just a year to convince head coach Bret Bielema that he could play linebacker at UW and should not be moved to fullback. His excellent work on the scout team did more than enough.
After putting in work in the winter to get bigger and stronger, Trotter, at least temporarily, finds himself receiving all his reps with the No. 1 defense every practice.
Badger Nation caught up with Marcus after practice one day to ask him about the unexpected twist of events.
Badger Nation: For right now at least, you are playing with the ones. How is that going?
Trotter: It is amazing. I would never think that coming here last summer as walk-on, knowing that I was going to be on scout team, that during spring ball I was going to be given a chance with the ones. It is a good thing.
Badger Nation: What has the transition been like going from scout team, pretending to be other defenses, to starting in the middle of the UW 'D'?
Trotter: Exactly. A lot of guys came up to me at the start and were like, 'be more poised,' you know because I am always energetic, I am always all over the place. And that was the thing about the first couple of practices, I was all over the place and missing some calls and stuff. But I thought to myself, football is just football, just play like that. So I have calmed myself down and I feel so good right now, I feel very comfortable, I feel like I am supposed to be out with them right now.
Badger Nation: Is it the case where your confidence is improving every practice?
Trotter: I think coach Hux has a lot of confidence in me now. For the first couple of practices, coach really got on my tail whenever I messed up or took a step back, but he has a lot of confidence in me now and I have come out ready to play. It is just starting, I am just laying down a foundation. This is only my freshman year, and I am very excited to see where I am going to end up.
Badger Nation: How far have you come along in learning the schemes of the defense?
Trotter: When you first start as scout team, they are just drawing stuff up and that is where you are going. You don't have any schemes or anything. So coming in I learned a bit during bowl prep where we had some freshman on freshman practices. But with coach Hux and the new defensive staff changing some stuff up, I was confused for a bit. But I just have questions for everything, where do I go when this happens, you know? So I have just tried to keep my poise and now I am understanding the full defense more and more.
Badger Nation: As someone so full of energy, have you found it difficult not to hit the running backs when all you are supposed to do is meet them in the hole and wrap up during practice?
Trotter: [Laughs] … Yeah, definitely. Coach Bielema got on me a bit about that sometimes. So then I slowed down, but I got yelled at today because the running back was coming and I just tapped him a little bit, and coach is yelling to 'stick him.' It can be a difficult balance for a linebacker sometimes.
Badger Nation: How is it working with a new coach like Huxtable?
Trotter: It is kind of crazy. When a new coach comes in they often don't go all out at first, just try and feel their way around. Coach Hux is nothing like that. He shows immediately what he is about, a very old school guy who you have to earn his respect. He expects perfection and if you don't do that you are not going to play.