What does a linebacker have to do to get noticed?
University of Wisconsin senior Mike Taylor led the Big Ten Conference in tackles last season with 150, which was the third-highest total in the country. He ranked 13th nationally with an average of 10.7 tackles per game.
Yet, Taylor was not on the Butkus Award watch list announced on Monday. The Big Ten placed nine players on the list, including UW junior Chris Borland.
To suggest Taylor isn't one of the top nine linebackers in the Big Ten is ridiculous, which shows the shortcomings of preseason watch lists for many awards. If Taylor has another big season, he could be added to the list and still be eligible for the award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.
It seems clear, Taylor's recognition suffers because he plays on the same defense with Borland, who recently was named to the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's outstanding defensive player.
Taylor, from Ashwaubenon, was named a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker last season by the media and was picked to the second team by the coaches. The more important the games got last season, the better Taylor seemed to play.
That started with the loss at Ohio State on Oct. 29, when he had a career-high 22 tackles, the most by a UW player since 1998, a season-high 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
He had an interception and nine tackles the following week against Purdue, then 13 tackles each of the next two weeks against Minnesota and Illinois. He had seven tackles, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble as the Badgers clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game with a win over Penn State.
In the Rose Bowl game against Oregon, he had 13 tackles and forced a fumble.
It didn't take new linebackers coach Andy Buh long to realize what he had in Taylor, who sat out spring practices following hip surgery.
"He's a football player," Buh said. "Every team in America would love to have him -- him and Chris both. He's a special guy."