Each Wednesday of the college football season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Prospect of the Week. To qualify, the player must have played a significant role in their team's performance against a quality opponent, demonstrating not only effectiveness as the collegiate level but the rare traits to demand the attention of pro scouts, as well.
Top Prospect of Week 11: Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland
The proliferation of spread offenses throughout football has made life difficult for those guys born to play inside linebacker.
The inside linebackers of the past were revered for their toughness, instincts and physical play. The best ones could play the pass. All could occasionally take on a blocker in the hole, shed and make a sure, clean tackle of the running back for no gain.
The ability to do so has become a bit of a lost art.
Against a tough BYU Cougars squad boasting several pro prospects of their own, Wisconsin's Chris Borland wasted no time shaking off any rust from a one-week layoff due to a hamstring pull to lead Wisconsin's defense against one of the nation's most prolific offenses.
The Cougars entered the game ranked 12th in the country in total offense, gouging defenses to the tune of 511.1 yards per game. The Badgers held the Cougars to 370 yards, much of that late in the game after Wisconsin had established a 20-3 lead.
Statistically speaking, Wisconsin running back James White was the player of the game as his three touchdowns were clearly critical in the Badgers' 27-17 victory.
As impressive as White was, the Badgers' senior linebacker was even better.
Borland might not be an elite athlete but he possesses extraordinary instincts, light feet and is a sure and physical hitter. He diagnoses plays quickly and attacks blockers, often literally beating them to the punch or simply zipping around them.
A perfect example of this came at 6:45 in the first quarter, when Borland perfectly timed the snap on a walkup blitz to pressure BYU quarterback Taysom Hill into the game's first turnover.
Demonstrating as quick and efficient a spin move as I've seen from any linebacker this year, Borland slingshot himself past left guard Solomon Kafu toward Hill, forcing the quarterback to either take or sack or throw the ball prematurely. Hill chose to pass. The quarterback's desperation floater intended for star wideout Cody Hoffman was thrown into double coverage and easily picked off by safety Tanner McEvoy.
Borland didn't get any statistical credit for the play, but scouts will note his ability to rush the passer -- a key trait some talent evaluators feel is necessary for a linebacker to warrant first-round consideration.
Borland's diagnosis skills, vision and burst make it arguably even tougher to run against him. If he sees a clear lane, he is quick and sure of himself, consistently shooting gaps in an attempt to make a big play. While aggressive, he isn't reckless, showing the patience to wait in the hole and force the back to commit. Borland's awareness and wrap-up tackles resulted in a team-high 13 stops in the victory against the Cougars, including 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Former Miami Dolphins great Zach Thomas (5-foot-11, 242) is an obvious comparison for Borland (5-foot-11, 246). It is a likeness I've heard scouts use and I agree with it.
Another strong comparison would be to former Seattle Seahawk Lofa Tatupu, whose possessed as fine of instincts as any linebacker I've ever seen.
Prospect of the Week Archives:
Week 1: Alabama WR/RS Christion Jones
Week 2: Miami LB Denzel Perryman
Week 3: Washington RB Bishop Sankey
Week 4: Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Week 5: Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews
Week 6: TCU CB Jason Verrett
Week 7: Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
Week 8: Florida State OLB Telvin Smith
Week 9: Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy
Week 10: Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard