Spring Recap: Linebackers

MLB Elijah Hodge

With the amount of depth and talent the Wisconsin linebackers showed during the 2008 spring camp, it would be no surprise to see as many as seven backers involved in the defensive game plan.

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MADISON - Senior linebacker Jonathan Casillas knew that an ankle injury could not slow him down.

After getting his ankle rolled on in the early practices, Casillas worked his way back to do limited action in the final week, citing that he needed to return to provide leadership to his unit.

But while he was out, fellow senior DeAndre Levy stepped in to fill that void.

"I sit back and watch in awe at the things he does," Casillas said about the starting Sam Linebacker "He's a lot better. He's definitely stepped up his voice with the team. He's not a real vocal person off the field. He doesn't really talk too much. He's definitely stepped up his vocal leadership and I think he's doing a great job."

Levy entrenched himself as the leader of the defense with a solid spring season, being active to the ball and making good reads as he backpedaled into pass protection.

With Casillas out, junior Jae McFadden got extensive work on the weak side with the top unit, improving so much that he proved he can be versatile and play on the weak or strong side.

"Every year, every play, every day I just try to get better to try and learn the linebacker fundamentals with technique and stuff like that," McFadden said. "This spring was real important for me to show them that I can make that step and be a starter if I needed to be."

McFadden showed that he can step in, as he registered a game-high nine tackles. Also with nine stops on the day were fellow linebackers Ryan Flasch and Erik Prather, who showed throughout spring, along with second-string Sam Linebacker Blake Sorensen, that they are capable of providing solid depth to the unit.

While Casillas and Levy have solidified their starting roles, the Mike Linebacker position between Elijah Hodge and Culmer St. Jean.

When camp started, Culmer St. Jean looked like the man to beat, picking off a number of passes and looking solid in pass protection drills and reading the guards. But as soon as St. Jean started to separate himself, Hodge came storming back, making a number of solid backfield tackles and a couple pass deflections in the latter weeks.

With both seeing equal reps throughout spring practices as many reps with the first team, both linebackers should see plenty of time on the field in 2008, meaning the Badgers will have six to seven capable linebackers to utilize next season.

Player of Camp: DeAndre Levy

Projected Starters: DeAndre Levy (Sam), Elijah Hodge (Mike) and Jonathan Casillas (Will)

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