Early in preseason camp, it was hard to predict how many snaps senior linebacker Blake Sorensen would get this season for the University of Wisconsin football team’s defense.
Sorensen was not a projected starter at the time, not that he was concerned.
“I didn’t worry a whole lot about how much I was going to play,” Sorensen said. “I knew things were going to work out.”
He was right. Through two games, Sorensen has played about as many snaps as anybody on defense.
He has started at both outside linebacker spots in the base defense, due to injuries that kept Mike Taylor (knee) out of the opener and sidelined Chris Borland (shoulder) last week.
Sorensen also works with the first unit on the nickel defense (3-3-5 Badger package).
“He’s my ace in the hole, there’s no doubt,” defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said.
Going into the game on Saturday against Arizona State, Taylor and Borland are both expected to play. Yet, Sorensen has played well enough to still be listed as a starter at field linebacker, while Taylor and Borland are both at boundary linebacker.
This is a unique week, because the Sun Devils run a spread, meaning the Badgers will likely spend most of the game in the Badger. Borland lines up as an outside rusher in that defense.
UW coach Bret Bielema said earlier in the week, if Borland and Taylor are both completely healthy, they would still be the starters.
Still, Sorensen is proving to be more than a capable fill-in. He leads the defense with 12 tackles and had an interception last week against San Jose State, showing good depth on his drop on a medium-deep pass down the middle.
“That was Tampa-2 (coverage) so he’s the middle player. That’s the design,” Doeren said. “He’s in the right place, which is Blake. That’s usually where he is — where he’s supposed to be.”
Sorensen has always been known as smart and dependable, two labels that eventually began to seem like back-handed compliments.
“I don’t want to just be that guy who’s smart and a utility guy, ‘If someone gets hurt, he can come in and play,’ ” Sorensen said. “(The reputation) kind of bugs me.
“I think I’m a player, too. I think I can help this defense as much as anyone.”
Sorensen will be a key figure against Arizona State, which throws a lot out of the spread.
“Obviously, the linebackers have to play well in space,” he said. “That will be a big challenge for us. They run a lot of plays (total) and we’ll be on the wide receivers. We have to tackle well and play in space.”