April 11, 2010

Sorensen impressed with young players

MADISON - As Mike Taylor and Chris Borland recover from their respective injuries during spring camp, the linebacker position has undergone a depth movement.

Instead of both stud sophomores manning the outside, the Badgers have been able to allow players like Kevin Rouse, A.J. Fenton and Kevin Claxton a number of repetitions.

On top of losing Taylor and Borland, UW also must replace the void left open from former Badger Jaevery McFadden. As spring camp enters its final week, it seems as though Blake Sorensen and Culmer St. Jean have done a stand up job leading by example with that stable of young players behind them.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Sorensen. The following is a question and answer with the senior linebacker.

How are things going for you now that we're 10 practices through (at the time of the interview)?

Sorensen: It's going really well. I feel like I've made some improvements and I feel like this defense, we're kind of filling in for some of the guys that we've lost like Chris Maragos, O'Brien Schofield and those guys. We're really making some ground and hopefully we'll be able to continue to improve the next five practices.

Do you see steady improvement across the whole line backing unit so far?

Sorensen: Culmer and I are guys that have played so we kind of know what we're doing. Especially with the younger guys like Rouse, Fenton and Kevin Claxton, those guys are getting a lot better. Spring for those guys is huge you know, because we're building the depth and those guys are having great springs.

Have you been impressed with Claxton? It seems like he's flying around out there pretty well.

Sorensen: He's picked it up fast. He's a natural athlete and once he learns to use his hands a little better he's going to make a lot of plays. He'd be a good nickel guy and he's going to keep getting better.

He packs a bit of a punch, too. He likes to stick people.

Sorensen: He's pretty feisty. You said he just moved there, but he likes to hit. I think linebacker is a good spot for him.

You said there is still some more ground for you to improve on. What do you need to improve on so late in your career? What do you still need to work on?

Sorensen: A lot of stuff. Using my hands is a big emphasis this spring. Otherwise I'm just working with coach Ben Herbert in the weight room. You can never be strong enough or fast enough. I'm just trying to continue improving my strength and overall game.

Is it kind of weird that this is your last spring ball? Time has flown by.

Sorensen: Yeah, it flew by really fast. It's kind of sad now, but I've got to make the best of it in my last year. All I can do is do my best.

Obviously you've got four or five practices left. What are you still trying to accomplish this spring and what is a realistic goal? Are you going to attain the goals you set before camp?

Sorensen: Yeah, I think the main thing is that we wanted to gel as a defense. Saturday we have a big scrimmage and that will be big. We've seen some solid improvements because guys have really stepped up. I think that was the main goal and we'll carry it into fall camp.

You have guys like Mike and Chris, guys who played such a role last year, out of the lineup. Did you have to make it a goal upon yourself to kind of ease the transition without these guys since you're an older player?

Sorensen: Yeah. Those guys are going to play a big role next year and everybody knows that. At the same time, if something happens to one of those guys or the younger guys, we've got to build some depth. That's important. You never know how guys are going to come out of injuries. We've got to play with the guys we've got and that's what we're doing this spring.

Is that was spring is all about? Just building depth?

Sorensen: Pretty much. I think that's the main thing. Fall camp is so focused on preparing for opponents and specific things. Spring is the time where everyone is getting reps and everyone is learning. That's the main thing.

You guys got a new coach at the linebacker position. What's his coaching style and how are you relating to him now that he's been around for a few weeks?

Sorensen: Coach Greg Jackson, he's a guy that's played in the NFL for 11 years so he's got a lot of wisdom. He sees the game different than any coach we have. He sees it from a player's perspective because he's played for so long. He's getting a lot better because he's getting to know us better and taking a bigger role. He's going to coach kickoff this year. We're getting to like coach Jackson and he seems like a good guy.

How much of an advantage is that when you have a guy you know has had such a great career in the NFL and a football career in general? You know you can rack his brain a little bit if you have questions and everything. He's been experienced. How much of an advantage is that?

Sorensen: That's huge. He was just telling us the other day that he's played for (Bill) Belichick, he won a super bowl and he's had so many experiences that he can really relate to us. It just really helps in all aspects, both game and off the field and everything.

You talked about some of the young guys earlier, but has anybody stood out more than the others as far as the linebackers go?

Sorensen: I think they're all improving. I think Rouse is a guy that had shoulder surgery and is coming back now. He's really making big strides. Claxton, as you said, I think he's surprising everyone. I don't think anyone thought he'd be where he was right now. He's going to keep getting better.

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