MADISON —Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is confident that the ankle injury sophomore center Dan Voltz suffered in the regular season finale is healed and ready to go for No.11 Badgers’ matchup against No.6 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game Saturday.
But in a break-in-case-of-emergency play, Andersen will pull the redshirt off freshman Michael Deiter. The way he sees it, there are very few alternatives.
"It's either that or walk off the field and not finish the championship game,” said Andersen, after practice Thursday. “So we’ll definitely have to play him.”
Andersen said Voltz was involved “a little bit” and that his expectations, along with Voltz’s, is that the center would start his 12th game of the year when No.11 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) takes on No.6 Ohio State (11-1, 8-0) in the Big Ten championship game Saturday at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Field. But he also added that “there is a little time to go,” suggesting Voltz is still trying to get his ankle healed.
If Voltz can’t play or re-injured himself in the game, Andersen say the possibility exist of Ray Ball stepping into the mix, likely at left guard, and moving Dallas Lewallen to center, where he started seven games last season.
And if that doesn’t work, Deiter would get the opportunity.
“If it’s your time to play, it’s your time to play,” said Andersen. “You’ve got to be able to snap the ball to keep playing. If that means Michael Deiter plays, Michael Deiter plays.”
Deiter, from Curtice, Ohio, enrolled in January to take part in spring practices. With Lewallen and Voltz out to rest injuries, Deiter took nearly all the snaps with the No.1 offense, despite having a lack of experience at the position. The idea for him was to play guard moving forward.
“Ideally that is not what we want, or we would have played him a long time ago,” said Andersen. “But Michael is on board. His family is completely on board and excited about the opportunity for him to play, quite frankly. His dad was pretty fired up when I talked to him today, thought his kid might have a chance to play, so great attitude they have.”
Voltz was held out of practice Tuesday or Wednesday but did some work Thursday with his left ankle heavily taped. UW continues to be without reserve guard Trent Denlinger (leg), and Ball (leg) has been banged up.
Whoever is in the interior will be challenged by Ohio State’s two talented tackles – Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington. Bennett (6-2 and 288) has four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Washington (6-4 and 295) has 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss.
“If it does happen (the way we want), he’ll have a redshirt year; that’s an insurance policy if you will,” said Andersen. “If it doesn’t, then he’ll have three more years to play in the Big Ten and be a starting offensive lineman. That’s still a pretty dang good spot to be in … Hopefully, Dan is ready and we don't have to cross that bridge. But if we do at least we prepared ourselves.”
While there’s some concern with the durability of the offensive line, Andersen expects sophomore tailback Corey Clement to handle a bigger workload than he has in recent weeks. Despite playing with a deep bruise to his AC joint in his right shoulder, Clement rushed seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in UW’s win over Minnesota and participated in practice all week.
“He should have very fresh legs and be ready to roll,” Andersen said. “He looks good, just like he did last week. Another week of healing does nothing but help.”
It’s just a large amount of nicks, bumps and bruises that Wisconsin is dealing entering its sixth straight week playing a game, a reason why Andersen has tried to back off the workload in some practices over the last several weeks, especially with UW playing consecutive physical games against Iowa and Minnesota.
“Everybody is beat up,” said Andersen. “It’s never an excuse late in the year. We’re beat up, we’re banged up, trying to practice them the right way but still get prepared. If you could tell me we could sit back and say we can have 10 days off before we play again I’d probably take it, but no such luck in that area.
“Health wise for playing 12 games in a very long season and what we’ve went through in the last month, I would say we’re in good shape.”