Here's your Wisconsin news from this weekend.
Injury report: Voltz will play, Wisconsin will miss Zagzebski
Center Dan Voltz has taken on an increased practice workload the last two days and will be ready to play on Thursday. He told reporters after Sunday's session that his ankle was feeling much better thanks to the extra recovery time before the bowl game:
Guard Kyle Costigan also participated fully as he works his way back from nagging injuries. Backup linebacker Leon Jacobs suffered a lower-body injury on Saturday and his status is uncertain. Running back Melvin Gordon was held out of Sunday's practice due to illness, but is expected to play.
One injured player the Badgers will not have available against Auburn is defensive lineman Konrad Zagzebski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Big Ten Championship. While the next men up -- particularly junior Jake Keefer and sophomore Austin Goldberg -- will see more of the field to fill the hole in the defensive line rotation, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it would be difficult to replace the toughness, energy and leadership the fifth-year senior brought to the team.
Badgers enjoy Outback Bowl festivities
Friday night saw Wisconsin and Auburn join forces to take on a welcome banquet featuring a prodigious quantity of food from Outback Steakhouse:
Between the Badgers and their Outback Bowl opponent, the Auburn Tigers, the two teams combined to eat almost 5,000 pounds of Outback Steakhouse food. That included 750 pounds of sirloin steak, 750 pounds of chicken and 900 pounds of ribs. Also consumed were almost 400 pounds of Steakhouse Potatoes, 1,600 coconut shrimp and, of course, 160 bloomin' onions.
After sweating off some of those 4 million calories at Saturday’s practice, players from both teams visited children at Tampa General hospital. Later that night, a trip to a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game saw three Badgers face off against their Southern counterparts in a shooting contest between periods. Unfortunately, Auburn claimed a close victory, but one imagines the result would have been different in a proper game of pond hockey.
Wisconsin did, however, get the chance to avenge the defeat in a bowling match Sunday evening
Badgers in the NFL: Watt wreaks havoc, Leonhard retires
Sunday was also Week 17 in the NFL and former Badger J.J. Watt ended his MVP-caliber season on an emphatic note, recording four tackles for loss and three sacks, including one that resulted in a safety. That gave him 20.5 sacks on the season, making him the first player in NFL history to record more than 20 sacks in two different seasons — especially remarkable given that this was only his fourth year in the NFL.
Another Wisconsin defensive legend, safety Jim Leonhard, played his final NFL game today as he plans to retire after a 10-year professional career. The 5'8 walk-on from Flambeau High School didn't receive any Division I scholarship offers, but became a key player for the Badgers during his time at Camp Randall. Leonhard won first-team All-Big Team honors in three consecutive seasons and shares the school record for interceptions (21) with Jamar Fletcher. He also briefly held the Big Ten record for most punt return yards.
Leonhard went undrafted despite his many collegiate accomplishments, but fought his way onto the Buffalo Bills roster as a rookie. He started regularly for the Bills, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets over the next few years and also had stints with the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. He dealt with some injury issues, but his productive professional career featured several big plays, including a few forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown.
Jim Leonhard was my favorite Badger growing up, and it's good to see him leave the league on his own terms after 10 successful years in the NFL.
Ed. note: Some rumors have suggested Leonhard as a possible candidate to join Paul Chryst's staff at UW. If we hear any more in that regard, we'll pass the information as long as soon as possible.