MADISON - Dealing with what may seem like a never-ending flow of nicks, tweaks and bruises to a lot of his personnel, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen acknowledges that it does hamper some of the things the Badgers are trying to accomplish and the progression of certain players.
On the same accord, those injuries are opening up the doors for others.
“It kind of opens up some windows for some other young men to get involved,” said Andersen.
Three of those young men are wide receivers Natrell Jamerson, George Rushing and Krenwick Sanders, who have done enough to show Andersen they will be able to help the Badgers’ passing game this year and will travel with the team to Houston.
“There’s no doubt about that,” said Andersen. “They will be there, and they will play.”
The trio has received more than their fair share of reps in the last few days with receivers Jazz Peavy and Rob Wheelwright being unable to participate, again. Peavy missed last year’s fall camp with a hamstring issue and Wheelwright missed most of spring with similar problems.
“If you’ve been out for that long and you have three guys who have competed the way they’ve competed, sooner or later, as bad as it is to say, without the reps and if somebody is producing in front of you, it’s a natural progression,” said Andersen. “We’re not believers in saying because somebody is hurt they lose their spot when they’re injured, but those two young men never really had a spot. They’re in a position to compete for a spot and will remain in position to compete, but they’ve got to get out on the field.”
In addition to the two wide receivers on the injured list, linebackers Vince Biegel (head) and Derek Landisch (hamstring) remained on the sidelines. While Biegel is expected to return and possibly scrimmage, Landisch won’t scrimmage and has no timetable for his return, but Andersen is expecting UW’s most experienced linebacker to return for the LSU game.
“I would be very, very surprised if he didn’t play against LSU,” said Andersen.
Andersen doesn’t expect any current injury to be serious enough to where that player would miss game time. There was a bit of good news on the injury front, however, as tight end Sam Eckert (foot), left guard Dallas Lewallen (flu), fullback Derek Watt (unknown) and tight end T.J. Watt (knee) all returned to practice Friday evening.
The Badgers have been so banged up in recent days that Andersen considered pushing back Monday afternoon's scrimmage. But with the opener two weeks away and a number of positions still unsettled, Wisconsin will scrimmage as normal, although the workload is being cut back to approximately 60-to-70 plays.
“We’ve got to do a great job from here on out,” said Andersen. “There’s still a lot of competition at a few spots.”
Andersen said a couple of those positions are the backup offensive linemen, roles for the wide receivers, the safety spot next to Michael Caputo, depth at inside linebacker and, of course, quarterback.
Andersen estimates that anywhere between seven and 10 true freshmen will play this season, a number that may include T.J. Edwards. A late find for tight end coach Jeff Genyk, Edwards has been getting reps at the outside linebacker spot behind Joe Schobert. With Landisch being out, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda moved Leon Jacobs to the inside backer position, creating a void at the “F” linebacker that Edwards has stepped into.
Whether he plays or not this season will depend on Landisch’s long-term health.
“(I’m) comfortable enough to give him a shot,” Andersen said of Edwards. “To say we’re going to put him on special teams and burn that redshirt the first game, I’m not comfortable in saying that.”
A number of freshmen still are waiting to earn their motion W. My unofficial count: Evan Bondoc, Brett Connors, Taiwan Deal, Sam Eckert, T.J. Edwards, Billy Hirschfeld, Micah Kapoi, Caleb Kinlaw, Jacob Maxwell, Zander Neuville, George Panos, Jeremy Patterson and P.J. Rosowski.
Andersen on if he’s ready to name a starting quarterback.
“No, not yet. I want to get through Monday (the scrimmage) and see where we sit. We’ll completely re-evaluate it and go from there.”
Extra Points: Andersen provided no concrete update on redshirt sophomore Vonte Jackson and his latest knee injury, saying that everyone is taking a deep breath and will reconvene in a few days to discuss his future … Kenzel Doe is slated to be the lead punt returner and kickoff returner this season … While it could change from week to week depending on the returner, Andersen would prefer a kicker who could routinely deliver touchbacks.