Badgers LB Taylor omitted from watch list

Badgers LB Taylor omitted from watch list

Published Jul. 16, 2012 1:07 p.m. ET

University of Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor registered more total tackles than any player in the Big Ten last season. And with his senior season around the corner, there is little reason to believe he won't remain as one of the premier linebackers in the nation.

But it appears at least one organization doesn't feel the same way.

Somewhat inexplicably, Taylor was left off the 51-player preseason watch list for the Dick Butkus Award, released on Monday. The award, headed by Pro Football Weekly, is given annually to the top college linebacker in the country.

Taylor led the Big Ten with 150 tackles last season and averaged 10.7 tackles per game, which ranked 13th in the country. His teammate, Badgers linebacker Chris Borland, tallied 143 tackles and ranked 19th nationally, with 10.2 per game. Borland, a redshirt junior, was included on the Butkus preseason watch list.

What gives with the Taylor omission?

Ron Arp, president of the Butkus Foundation, explained that several factors go into determining the preseason watch list, including how a player performed during the previous spring. Taylor missed Wisconsin's entire spring session with a hip injury and fell just shy of making the Butkus panel's top 51, according to Arp. Borland was hampered in spring practice because of a hamstring injury but still saw limited action.

Arp added that just because a player is not on the preseason watch list doesn't mean he won't make the semifinal list of roughly 15 players in October.

"He started off really well a year ago," Arp told of Taylor. "If he starts off really well again this year, it's quite possible he'll end up on the list of 15. That's definitely in the realm of possibility. Last year, we had two from the University of Alabama on the semifinal list. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see two Badgers on the list when we get to the semifinalists.

"But what (panelists) saw in the spring, they moved Mike just a little bit lower on the list this year, and we'll just have to see how that plays out. It really comes down to what happens on the field."

The Butkus Award began in 1985 and honors the top high school, college and professional linebackers in the country. The selection committee consists of a group of 51 college and professional coaches, scouts and prominent sports journalists -- 51 was Butkus' number as a pro football player.

"We wanted it to be large enough that it would rule out any potential regional biases or things along those lines," Arp said. "We think we've got a really good watch list."

Panelists include New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Green Bay Packers director of scouting John Dorsey, University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, FOX Sports analyst Jay Glazer and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, among others.

Arp said committee members typically nominate three or four players for the preseason watch list. A full list of all the nominations is then created, and the selection panel gives feedback to narrow that list to 51 players.

Taylor, an Ashwaubenon, Wis., native, was a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker last season by the media and a second-team choice by the coaches. He recorded a career-high 22 tackles in a game against Ohio State, the most single-game tackles for a Wisconsin player since 1998.

In addition to Borland, eight other Big Ten linebackers made the Butkus Award watch list instead of Taylor: Denicos Allen (Michigan State), Jonathan Brown (Illinois), Max Bullough (Michigan State), Gerald Hodges (Penn State), Michael Mauti (Penn State), James Morris (Iowa), David Nwabuisi (Northwestern) and Etienne Sabino (Ohio State).

As for Taylor? He'll have to wait until October if he hopes to see his name on the list.

"We'll have to see how the actual season kicks off," Arp said. "You have a lot of things happen, including surgery. You see players who were outstanding the year previous, they come back next year not quite as good, so we'll see how the season progresses."

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