The Wisconsin Badgers (6-2, 3-1) ended their 24-13 win against Illinois on Saturday without five of their starters from the start of the season on the field.
They'll now be missing at least one for the rest of the season.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst confirmed during his Monday press conference in the Camp Randall Stadium south end zone media room that junior center Dan Voltz will miss the rest of the season. Voltz injured his right knee during Wisconsin's third scoring driving of the game that put them ahead 17-13 in the third quarter.
It's a tough blow to the Rimington Trophy watch list nominee and to a young offensive line searching for consistency and stabilization -- which Voltz and senior left tackle Tyler Marz tried to anchor. Chryst isn't letting his team get into a "woe is me" mentality.
"Like I said, you feel bad for the guys that miss time," Chryst said. "They put a lot into this, and they love playing the game, and they love contributing to the success of this team, and it's also -- you know, the number of guys that have gotten their start -- their first significant playing time in the years that I was here, a lot of them come -- some come from graduation, some come from moments like that -- and so that's one of the qualities of this team that I like, is that they just -- they don't take anything for granted but they also don't let that get to them."
Redshirt freshman Michael Deiter moved over from left guard to center in replacing Voltz for the rest of the Illinois game, and also in the week prior against Purdue. On the depth chart released by the team on Monday, redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi was slotted in at left guard for Deiter, with redshirt junior Walker Williams in at right guard.
"The thing I appreciated from Michael is that he doesn't flinch," Chryst said, "he just -- he rolls with it -- and same thing, Micah jumped in and actually his first snap had a significant block, and I think those guys are -- they're freshmen, but they've played, and Micah has started games, and so the expectations are for them to get better and also to rely on what they've done and the knowledge and experience that they've gained and apply that to going forward and helping contribute to us getting better offensively, and I think that helps our team get better."
Chryst also acknowledged junior wide receiver Rob Wheelwright will be out indefinitely after suffering a leg injury on redshirt senior Alex Erickson's 56-yard run on the same drive Voltz was injured on. Redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy now is listed next to Erickson on the first-team offense as wide receivers.
It also appears Wisconsin may not have guard Ray Ball and right tackle Hayden Biegel for the rest of the season, while redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave is going through concussion protocol.
"Yeah, he was up (in the football office) yesterday and he's good," Chryst said when asked if he likes where his starting quarterback's at, "and he's definitely very similar to what Alex (Erickson) and Mike (Caputo) were after (head injuries earlier this season)."
Here's the full press conference of Chryst's press conference.
Paul Chryst Weekly News Conference
Oct. 26, 2015
CHRYST: Certainly I'm proud of the effort by a lot of guys in getting the win last week. You know, every game plays out different -- that's, I think, the fun of competition -- and some guys stepped in and took on a different role, and I thought other guys, in their roles, stepped up and we were able to get a good team win and need to build on the positives and still areas I think in all -- we were talking about that earlier today, special teams, defense, offense, number of areas where we can improve and need to improve to be the best team we can, and certainly look forward to having the best game we can against Rutgers.
It's a team that needs to keep growing, and I think you guys have seen the release of the depth chart -- Dan Voltz will miss the remainder of the season, Rob (Wheelwright) will be out for a period of time. Outside chance we can get him back for the end of the season.
Once again, opportunity for guys to step up and looking forward to this week.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify on Voltz, would that include a bowl game?
QUESTION: Okay. You keep talking about stepping up, but what are the expectations for Michael Deiter now? Are they the same as they were before stepping in last time, and what about a guy like a (Micah) Kapoi at guard, who's got some time?
CHRYST: Yeah, I think Michael is a guy that's really -- I think he's done a lot of really good things for us. I think he did a nice job finishing out the game. The thing I appreciated from Michael is that he doesn't flinch, he just -- he rolls with it -- and same thing, Micah jumped in and actually his first snap had a significant block, and I think those guys are -- they're freshmen, but they've played, and Micah has started games, and so the expectations are for them to get better and also to rely on what they've done and the knowledge and experience that they've gained and apply that to going forward and helping contribute to us getting better offensively, and I think that helps our team get better.
QUESTION: In the second half when Rob went out, I noticed Tanner (McEvoy) saw a lot more time at receiver. Do you see that continuing with Rob out? Is Tanner going to start at receiver and get a lot more time in there?
CHRYST: I think there is a chance for it to be how we played the second half. We will kind of go through the week -- I don't think right now we're going into change Tanner's role. It's always been that, he's always been willing to, ‘Whatever you need me to do, Coach, I'm good.' Talked to him during the game and during the second half, particularly, and he felt good. So that whole -- Tanner's part of that group that has to step up and replace Rob. I know I've said this before, but, you know, I feel bad for Rob. He was playing really good football. Yet, it will give some other guys an opportunity, and they've got to step up, and I thought that was one thing that Alex (Erickson) did, was Alex understood what was happening, and he raised his level of play, I thought. And same could be said of Joel (Stave), who loves playing the game, and he didn't get to play much in that game, and it gives Bart (Houston) an opportunity, and that's part of being on a team and that's part of playing football.
QUESTION: With Dan and now Rob added to Joel and Corey (Clement) and the different injury issues you've gone through this year with, has it crept in the back of your mind saying what next? Who next? And how do you keep that from getting into the guys' heads?
CHRYST: I don't think the players -- everyone that plays knows there is a possibility. And I don't think that it's - they definitely don't go with the, ‘What next could happen, woe is me.'
Like I said, you feel bad for the guys that miss time. They put a lot into this, and they love playing the game, and they love contributing to the success of this team, and it's also -- you know, the number of guys that have gotten their start -- their first significant playing time in the years that I was here, a lot of them come -- some come from graduation, some come from moments like that -- and so that's one of the qualities of this team that I like, is that they just -- they don't take anything for granted but they also don't let that get to them.
QUESTION: You mentioned that Joel was cleared before he entered the game -- reentered the game on Saturday. Did he experience concussion-like symptoms following that, and is he going through the protocol currently?
CHRYST: Once he came off, he was with the doctors, and then they said Joel is cleared, so I went and said, "How you doing, you okay?" And he said, "Yep" and then he went back in, and then we had that where it just didn't seem like maybe he was -- I don't know. So we had the timeout, and that's when we made the change. So he went through the protocol again.
QUESTION: (Away from mic.)
CHRYST: Yes. He's currently in the program.
QUESTION: Back to the offensive line for a second, I know that the depth chart is one thing, but not every guy in that depth chart is ready to fill in.
CHRYST: Who says?
QUESTION: Well, reality says. How much flexibility do you have left there in terms of reserves if someone else, even for a few plays, goes down? Are we looking at Ray Ball and Hayden Biegel; are they done? Is there any chance they are coming back at all this year?
CHRYST: I don't think Hayden or Ray will be back. Dan meant a lot to this team and certainly the offensive line, and we're definitely out one, but it's - we've got guys that will -- we'll get them ready, should that opportunity present itself. I think that's part of coaching, is give them a chance to have success. Dan was dinged up -- I think he could have played two weeks ago but didn't, and so -- so it's not like we haven't had time to work with guys and develop them, and I think that an important part of any -- whether you're healthy or not healthy -- is developing your players.
So maybe some it's a little bit sooner than you thought, but I think we will never put in a guy that's not ready that wouldn't -- that he could go backwards in his growth or development. So I think with Dan specifically it's not like we haven't had to think through those and plan for that.
QUESTION: The word "concussion protocol" and you said "the program" gets thrown around a lot this year with Erickson and Caputo and now Joel. What exactly goes into the concussion protocol?
CHRYST: They tell you they're in it, and then they tell you if they're out of it. I mean, it's the doctors -- and that's a good thing, it's not in our hands. The player's safety -- it's not like player safety means something more now, right? In all the years that I've been able to coach and been around coaches, that's always been important.
I think there is a protocol or a list of things you check off and make sure that this is where we're at, and part of it's every player has a baseline, and this is -- they're doing it in high schools now -- so you've got a frame of reference. And during the game, I know they ask questions and talk to them, and then there is an exercise component to it once they are feeling cleared, how do they respond to the exercise, and then the doctors and the trainers say that they're cleared, and they're ready to go and then you get 'em back into participation.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, is it a right knee for Voltz and a left foot for Wheelwright?
CHRYST: I saw both and -- I don't know, it's a knee and it's a leg.
QUESTION: Obviously the protocol has a lot to do with Joel this week, but do you like where he's at right now?
CHRYST: Yeah, he was up (in the football office) yesterday and he's good, and he's definitely very similar to what Alex (Erickson) and Mike (Caputo) were after (head injuries earlier this season).
QUESTION: I know you weren't here the past few seasons, but Bart had waited for a long time for a chance like that. Did you get a sense of what that opportunity meant to him, to be out there getting meaningful snaps?
CHRYST: I thought the best part of what Bart did was he went out -- he was true to himself. I think he was who he's been every day. He didn't change -- the moment didn't change who he was. Bart, one of his strengths is his competitiveness, and I thought he did that, and I thought he just played the game.
I think this team means a lot to a lot of guys, so when you can contribute, that meant a lot to Bart. So that was what I thought were the great takeaways that I enjoyed seeing, was that here is a guy that, you never know when that moment is, but he was ready for it. And he played, and he was true to himself, and he contributed to doing something for this team. I thought that was pretty cool.
QUESTION: You mentioned even after the game that Bart was true to himself, "Bart was Bart." I have heard the word "flaky" to describe him before. He's talked about playing hijinks with the other guys the other quarterbacks signaling in plays. How would you describe Bart's personality and what he's like?
CHRYST: I wouldn't call him "flaky." I think it's hard because you know the players. I would describe Bart as Bart; that doesn't help anybody, right? Which doesn't really bother me! (Laughter.) But you know what I mean? He's who he was, and I think he cares a ton, he's competitive. He's a good guy, you know, and he's got a lot of depth to him. When you think about flaky, those things don't resonate in my mind, but he's a good teammate.
QUESTION: You guys have seen a lot of improvement on third downs the last couple of games. What do you attribute that to?
CHRYST: Well, I mean, we're executing better. And you've got to do it every week. So when you execute, you have a chance for success, and I think that's what we've been doing.
QUESTION: Paul, from a coaching standpoint, how tough has it been with the injuries and, on the staff, have you ever had a season like this or anybody that they can kind of relate and help you get through it?
CHRYST: The hardest thing for me is that you know that those moments and opportunities for the players -- it really is the hardest thing -- the other part, you know, it's knowing who you are, knowing who those players are and what can you do to help them help the team. You don't spend any time reflecting or -- it's what it is.
And it's good and it is fun getting guys ready. That's called coaching, and I feel really lucky to coach, and then you make sure they are as prepared as they can.
I haven't thought about any of that. You just -- you feel bad for the guys that miss, and you are excited for the other guys' opportunity, and then it's your job to try to help them maximize that opportunity.
QUESTION: Weekly exploratory question about Corey (Clement)?
CHRYST: You should have covered that with the back-handed microphone move (Laughter.)
QUESTION: He talked last week about planning to go down, obviously that changed late in the week. What happened there and has anything changed this week leading to the Rutgers game?
CHRYST: We will always travel guys that can play, and you know, where he was at, he wasn't going to be ready to play the game. So we will see what this week brings, and looking forward to that. He's cleared to practice, and I think the practice will determine when he's ready, so we will hopefully have a good week and find out.
QUESTION: How has this defense changed since the time you left here to now?
CHRYST: It's -- I mean the obvious has changed -- I think the style is a little bit different with the 3-4 and, certainly, what Dave (Aranda) brought. There is a lot of different looks, where I don't think before, we weren't as multiple, a little bit more on third down -- not more than what we are doing now -- but we had a little bit of changeup.
And I think each year the players define it for you. Like right now, when I think of our defense, there's names that -- there's faces that pop in, you know, and it's Schobert, it's Caputo, it Vince, it's Darius, you know what I mean? They've been big and they've given us a chance in all these games, and you appreciate that. And I like their confidence, and yet there is a willingness for them to work, and I think there is a good balance of pride, not arrogance or anything, but I think it's -- schematically I think it's certainly more multiple.
QUESTION: Being the hometown guy, when you got hired back in December, I can't imagine how excited you were for this job, but if somebody had come to you then and said, hey in your first year you're going to have seven different combinations on the O-line, you're going to lose your starting center, your quarterback, your running back, your wide receiver, what do you think your response would have been back then?
CHRYST: It's two totally different things. Each season, it's a journey, and you get to do it, and I have enjoyed that. It's all part of the deal. It's unfortunate for the players, but I don't know, I mean it wouldn't have changed anything.
QUESTION: Following up on Corey, because I'm not sure we're going to get a chance to talk to him tomorrow, didn't think so (Chuckles.) He was cautiously optimistic when we talked to him that he would have a shot to play. Do you sense that he might suffer a mental set-back? I'm sure he was disappointed to have to sit home and watch the game, if that's what he did?
CHRYST: No, I don't anticipate any setback from that. It wouldn't -- you want to cover those things, and that's why I think communicating with Corey helps, so that he understands we're all on the same page. I don't anticipate anything like that being a setback.
In fact, you hope it helps. There is a better setup here for treatments and rehab than on the road in the hotel and on game day. So that was all factored into it, and, you know, the biggest thing will be actions. A lot of talk about hypotheticals and all that, but he's got to go do it and trust it, and then do it again, do it the next day, and I think that will add to the trust and the confidence and that's what we're working through.
QUESTION: How good were your cover units against Illinois?
CHRYST: I thought they were really good. We thought that we were going to be tested in a big way, and I thought the kickers did a nice job. The wind was a factor in the game, but I thought the guys knew it was going to be a challenge, and they rose up to that, and I think we grew from there and I think we're going to be tested this week again.
I think they've got a heck of a returner, so we've got to build on the things we did well. I thought Jack (Russell) did a nice job on his kickoffs, one was into the wind. I thought we had a good plan for it and the guys understood it, and then Drew (Meyer) did a nice job, so that was good. Certainly we've got to get the return game going. That's been struggling.
But the coverage units did some really good things. That was a big part of the game, and we've got to build on that -- keep that and get that better.
QUESTION: With this game being on Halloween, obviously you'll probably see a few costumes in the crowd with the student section, and knowing how important fashion is to football coaches...
CHRYST: Especially this one.
QUESTION: ... wonder if we would see a return of the red helmets, or have we seen the last of those around the here?
CHRYST: All this stuff we have been talking about before has a lot more to do with the game than that! (Chuckles.) I don't even know.
QUESTION: Are you going to wear a costume?
CHRYST: Am I going to wear a costume? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What kind of challenge does Rutgers bring to you this week?
CHRYST: Well, I think offensively -- and I know last Saturday they didn't put up a lot of points, but you watch the Indiana game and how they came back, I think offensively they can -- they've got a lot of weapons, and I think they do a nice job of running the football. If they get the running game going, the play-action passes off of it -- and I think they have some very good players -- and defensively, I think their front, they're good, and can cause a lot of disruption.
They've done a great job of getting to the quarterbacks, and I think that their coverage schemes are really sound, and they've got good players there. I feel like both offensively and defensively you have to go earn what you're going to get. They won't give you anything, and I think that they will present some different challenges for our defense we haven't seen for a while, and I thought just from looking at it early in the week here, I think they're -- again, I thought Brian (Posick) talked about our coverage units, and I think we're going to be tested again.
I think their return groups are really, really good, and so I think we've got to -- that's this time of year and playing in conference, you're challenged. They took Michigan State down to the wire, and it was a good football game, and you watch it; they've had some very good games. And last week they played the number one team in the country, but we expect a very good team coming in.