In a sport where a single player can often be the difference between victory and defeat, the magnitude of losing linebacker Chris Borland for the rest of 2010 is imposible to measure.
UW head coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday that Borland will sit out the rest of the season after aggravating a chronic left shoulder injury and apply for a medical hardship, which will allow him to redshirt and maintain three years of eligibility.
"After talking with our training staff and Chris, we decided that the best thing for Chris was to shut him down for the rest of the year," Bielema said in a statement. "Obviously Chris is a tremendous player and a ferocious competitor but after looking at all the options, everyone agreed this was the only option for him."
Like every other injury situation the Badgers face, Bielema's "next man in" philosophy still applies, but it doesn't mean UW's defense will be the same as it was with Borland playing.
There is no one on the entire team like the true sophomore linebacker that was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009. A two-star recruit, Borland proved early and often that he was quick enough, strong enough and athletic enough to play defense in the Big Ten immediately. He also has an uncanny awareness for being near the ball at all times and that will be the toughest thing to replace.
Borland's teammates surely know how much he will be missed.
"Man, that's a tough break," UW defensive end J.J. Watt wrote on Twitter Tuesday. "Time to put it in overdrive. We got you covered 44."
Sure, Wisconsin is lucky that Borland can still redshirt and play for three more years, but this is the season the Badgers are supposed to go to a BCS bowl so that doesn't help anything right now.
And then there are plenty of questions about Borland's future.
Is this something that he will ever fully recover from? He just had surgery in the offseason to fix the shoulder and it only took one game for the injury to flare up again.
Will he be the same player? It's never good to have an injury problem lingering in the back of your head while playing football.
The good news is that this is not a leg injury. Borland's explosiveness and athleticism should not be hurt while sitting out.
But in the meantime, one of the Big Ten's up-and-coming stars is going to be missed in 2010. Here's to hoping for a thorough recovery and one that will fix this chronic shoulder problem for good.