FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Jesse Temple analyzes the 25 most important players to the Badgers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
No. 20 — Marcus Trotter, linebacker
Why he’s No. 20
Trotter served as Chris Borland’s primary backup last season and will now move into a starting role. It would be tough for anybody to try and step in to fill the shoes occupied by Borland. He was a leader and perhaps the toughest, most sneaky athletic player to come through Wisconsin in years.
Trotter, some may recall, tallied back-to-back nine-tackle games against Illinois and Iowa while Borland was sidelined with an injury last season. Trotter made his first career start for that Iowa game and performed exceptionally well, even though he didn’t know he’d be the starter until two hours before kickoff while Borland tested a hamstring injury.
Trotter does not necessarily have tremendous speed, but he is tough and smart. And those are traits any defensive coordinator would welcome.
Expectations for 2014
The starting linebacker group will be a mix of young and old with Trotter, Derek Landisch, Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel. Without Borland and Ethan Armstrong, it will look much different but could prove to be equally effective.
Trotter has played in 14 career games with 23 tackles, including two tackles for a loss. Those obviously aren’t big numbers, but Trotter has not been presented with the opportunities to put up anything more. That all changes this season.
It would be unfair to expect Trotter to do everything Borland did for the Badgers. Borland was an athletic freak who finished his career ranked sixth all-time at Wisconsin in total tackles (420), fifth in solo tackles (234), fourth in tackles for loss (50) and tied for eighth in sacks (17). Last season, Borland led the team with 112 tackles and 8.5 tackles for a loss — all while missing two games with his injury.
Trotter won’t reach triple digits for tackles, but if he can record at least 50, it would be a positive. Wisconsin had only three players register at least 50 tackles last season — Borland, Michael Caputo and Armstrong. Given what we’ve seen from Trotter in limited action last season, that’s a number that seems well within reach.
What would they do without him?
Wisconsin has quite the surplus of linebackers on the roster this season. But you can’t beat the experience of having a fifth-year senior such as Trotter, who has seen everything college football has to offer. Leon Jacobs has impressed coaches and was moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. He played in all 13 games last season and finished with seven tackles. There is also Marcus’ twin brother, Michael, who is now playing linebacker.
Still, this is a job Marcus Trotter is absolutely ready to embrace. And though there are some questions about how well the new linebacker unit plays together, the group could prove to be one of the team’s biggest strong suits.