After suffering a leg injury late in last week's 62-14 win at Indiana, Chris Borland's status is in doubt for Saturday's game vs. Ohio State.
Though Borland was reportedly walking without a limp after the game in Bloomington, Ind., and head coach Bret Bielema later said the Badgers' middle linebacker was just cramping, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus reported Borland actually suffered a strained right hamstring.
On Thursday, Bielema said Borland has been limited in practice, though he is still in line for the start. Bielema said the coaching staff will watch Borland in pre-game warm-ups and "see where we're at." Bielema also noted that Borland has said the injury has been feeling better with each passing day.
"A lot of times when you're dealing with an injury like that, you get concerned if they start regressing," Bielema said. "He hasn't regressed."
If Borland is unable to start, or if the injury limits his availability, Bielema said sophomore Marcus Trotter will line up at the middle linebacker spot. Trotter, a Marquette High School graduate, has played in five games but never started over his two years at UW. Ethan Armstrong, who typically starts at strong-side linebacker, could also slide over to the middle, though Bielema said that would only be a "contingency plan."
Badgers sticking to same Senior Day formula
Prior to Saturday's game at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers will honor their nine seniors with the usual Senior Day festivities. Over his six years as head coach, Bielema has never lost on Senior Day. For that reason, Bielema said he has no plans to change anything before Wisconsin takes on Ohio State.
Those nine seniors include running back Montee Ball, offensive lineman Robert Burge, cornerback Marcus Cromartie, safety Shelton Johnson, defensive lineman Brendan Kelly, quarterback Curt Phillips, cornerback Devin Smith, linebacker Mike Taylor and offensive lineman Rick Wagner. Kelly and Phillips are also both applying for a sixth year of eligibility due to injuries and would return for the next 2013 if granted.
That group of seniors owns a 39-11 (.780) record over its four years at UW, and a win on Saturday would tie the 2007 class' record of 40 victories. Those nine scholarship seniors also make up the third-smallest senior class among FBS teams. Only Rice (7), Colorado (8) and Indiana (8) have fewer.
Wisconsin also plans to honor former players and current student coaches Zach Davison and Jordan Kohout, as well as two players with remaining eligibility who will not play in 2013 in junior linebacker A.J. Fenton and sophomore offensive lineman Joe McNamara.
"I learned this under coach [Barry] Alvarez, any time we played Ohio State when I was his defensive coordinator, everybody thinks that you're going to give this extra effort or something like that," Bielema said. "You're trained 365 days a year to play in this game. We don't need to go beyond what's in front of us. I think if you've got guys trying to put too much out there, that's when things become uptight or something. We just want to go out there and play our best football."
That answer was mixed with the duality of facing a team like the Buckeyes, who at 10-0 (6-0 Big Ten) lead the Leaders Division. But given OSU's postseason ineligibility, UW has already clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. In his weekly Monday press conference, Bielema said Wisconsin will not rest any players for Saturday's game, though he did leave the door open for that to happen in the regular-season finale against Penn State next week.
- Bielema made a point to emphasize the Badgers' need to score first on Saturday, which has been heavily pushed on the team this week: "I think the part that is key for Saturday is to have a fast start. We've been hitting our guys up the last week to come out and score right away on the first possession."
- Bielema also had some interesting comments on the recent play of defensive end David Gilbert: "I went through about a three-week phase of every time I saw David Gilbert, I'd just go, ‘Potential.' I'd say that across his chest, ‘Potential.' The light bulb's kind of come on here the last two or three games. David Gilbert can take over a game and change it if he really is confident in what he's doing.
- Also related to Gilbert came an interesting anecdote regarding recruits who choose to enroll early. Turns out, those early enrollees never end up signing a National Letter of Intent. In explaining the process, Bielema referenced Gilbert's early enrollment: "David Gilbert brought his mom here on January 8th , I remember it like it was yesterday. It was minus-48 wind chill. His mom had never been above the Florida state line, and we didn't start classes for four more days. I was, like, worried that this kid would literally pack up and leave and go, because your signing day when you're a mid-year enrollee is classes. When you begin classes, you become binding. Before that, you don't sign anything. It's kind of a glitch that I've tried to address now for the last three years within our system. It's just part of the evolution, the NCAA hasn't caught on to that yet."