A season ago, the Wisconsin Badgers were led defensively by senior outside linebacker Mike Taylor, who started all 14 games for the Badgers. Taylor ended up leading one of the Big Ten’s best defenses in tackles and tackles for loss.
Wisconsin must move into a new coaching era without Taylor’s talents and leadership. Gary Andersen is the new coach in Madison, but who will be the new starting linebacker in Taylor’s old spot?
There are several candidates, but first understand that whoever does occupy the spot will be surrounded by experience. Wisconsin returns seven starters on defense, including six of seven up front. All six of these guys are seniors, so while Taylor’s replacement will be placed in a new situation, the guys around him will have experience to draw on.
Spring practice is now underway for the Badgers, and heading into the spring, this looks like a two-horse race. Conor O’Neill has played in 40 games for the Badgers, and heading into his senior season he certainly has the experience to earn the starting job. O’Neill, however will have to beat out junior Derek Landisch to earn the spot.
Landisch was Taylor’s backup last year at weak side linebacker, playing in all 14 games and recording 28 tackles (one for loss). O’Neill, meanwhile, backed up Ethan Armstrong on the strong side, recording 15 tackles and one interception. I believe that the experienced O’Neill can make the transition to the weak side easily, but the learning curve, however small, may give the advantage to Landisch.
Both of these guys will certainly see the field in 2013, but only one can earn the starting job. Things appear deadlocked to this point, and Rant Sports will keep you updated as spring practice rolls on.
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