Despite the harrowing potential for a devastating injury,
You kind of have to admire the way TB genuinely does not care about his body.
But Tank still broke his neck and went on to become an All-America Linebacker.
On this very special second annual Tuesday edition of the Rose Bowl preview, today we'll take a look at the linebacker units for both teams. This edition is going to be a little different though as we apparently have one reader who does not agree with my assessments, or at least doesn't take my predictions at face value. Surely you guys realize that I could just come here, write down, "Gary Patterson is the greatest linebacker maker of all time and Tanner Brock plays football without a helmet" and give us the edge without even giving Wisconsin a second glance, right? Unbridled homerism is one of the rights of writing on a fan site for a specific team and more often than not we embrace it to he fullest. However, even if I think we're clearly better in one area - QB!!! - I have to at least pretend that I'm making it a debate in my mind, or this little exercise would be even more boring than it already is. Still, this game is incredibly evenly matched and these previews have been much more difficult than I expected, so if I don't always sound all peaches and cream, it's because that'd be a lie. Of course, I'm clearly going to pick TCU in the end, but the road there might not be as pretty as we want it to be. So consider this the "Choose your own adventure" edition of the preview.
If you are a commenter who thinks I'm being just a little too real about how we stack up to Wisconsin, stop reading now and go watch Hannah Montana reruns because you may not be prepared by the faux even handedness that follows
If you are anyone else, continue reading and get absolutely DOUSED with knowledge.
Blake Sorensen - SR. 6'1", 231 lbs.
Culmer St. Jean - SR. 6'0", 234 lbs.
Mike Taylor - SO. 6'2", 223 lbs.
Kevin Claxton - JR. 6'1", 230 lbs.
Tank Carder - JR. 6'3", 237 lbs.
Tanner Brock - SO. 6'3", 246 lbs.
Kenny Cain - SO. 6'1", 210 lbs.
Kris Gardner - JR. 6'1'", 238 lbs.
To begin, please take a second to check out Wisconsin LB Culmer St. Jean. I have a feeling he will hit you square in the sack if you call him Frenchy or ask him to go get you a croissant. And apparently 59 backs and receivers in the Big Ten made fun of the size of his baguette this year, because those are 59 souls he now carries around in his European Carry-All. That's good for second on the team. Fellow senior LB Blake Sorensen is the team leader in the category with 60 tackles on the year, and he has 2 INTs as well. I find it interesting that neither of these guys have a QB sack, but with JJ Watt and his pals up front accounting for a good majority of them, I'm guessing there just weren't enough to go around. It's also maybe worth mentioning that both of those guys were academic all big ten selections; those smarts could potentially translate to the football field and hurt us when trying to outscheme the Badgers. Either that or they went the normal, acceptable route and had their tutors write all of their papers for them.
Mike Taylor also plays a major role in the Wisconsin defense and piled up 51 tackles, including 8 for losses, this season despite only playing in 11 of the team's 12 games. Kevin Claxton brings up the rear with 24.
As I'm sure I've mentioned before, it's somewhat difficult to compare the two defenses simply because few teams run our 4-2-5, but seeing as how that second strong safety often operates as a third linebacker, I'll make do. Of course we're pretty familiar with Tank Carder and Tanner Brock by now, and both guys should be pre-season All Americans next year as they begin their senior and junior campaigns, respectively. Brock leads all TCU tacklers with 97...and second place is not even close. Really? 97? I honestly had no idea before I just looked that up but my goodness. A sophomore! Tank is 4th on the team, although that 57 looks pretty measly by comparison. Both guys have a pick and they have combined for 5.5 sacks. But there are couple of stats that stand out to me, and those are their stats in the passing defense, as they both rank in the top 3 on the defense in passes defensed and passes broken up. I'll be honest, I'm not sure the difference between the two - if passes defensed is when a player defends a man on a pass his way, shouldn't there be one for almost every passing down? - and I have to imagine it's something that's not too concrete to keep track of, but I like that those guys are up there. Versatility, we have it. They've both recovered a fumble, and in Brock's case two. Clearly they are a major factor behind TCU's third consecutive top ranked defense.
Kris Gardner and Kenny Cain, although not nearly as heralded as the other two, saw reps in every single game this year, and Cain especially had an impact, finishing with 27 tackles. Gardner only had 12, but one was for a loss. Much like sacks at Wisconsin, though, with Tanner Brock taking 97 tackles for himself, there aren't a ton to go around.
So how do you directly compare the two units? Well, linebackers typically help control the pace of the game, and one way to look at it is with total plays run by opposing offenses. In this case, TCU has a clear advantage with 647 to 741. Time of possession is another and TCU leads that as well with 25 minutes allowed versus 27 for Badger opponents. And then, of course, there's the almighty rushing yards allowed stat, which, of course, the Frogs lead by about 40 yards per game - 89-131. Looking at the track record for linebackers under Patterson, this should come as little surprise, especially to AFC West fans with David Hawthorne and Daryl Washington. Really, I have nothing else to say. Tank and Tanner, while perhaps not as widely revered, are as good as anyone who has come through here and I look for them to be a huge reason why TCU wins this game. Sugar coated enough for you?
Edge - Frogs.