MADISON – Wisconsin’s beleaguered running game might be getting a needed shot in the arm this weekend, as both starting running back Corey Clement and backup tailback Taiwan Deal could be available this weekend.
Badgers head coach Paul Chryst cautioned that there are “still no guarantees” regarding the duo, but it's still good news for Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) before it travels to Champaign, Ill., for a critical Big Ten West matchup against the Illini (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten).
Following only 96 yards against Purdue, the worst run defense in the conference, Wisconsin is averaging 154.6 rushing yards per game, ranked 90th nationally.
Clement, who underwent sports hernia surgery less than three weeks ago, teased a return Saturday before Wisconsin’s 24-7 victory over the Boilermakers, warming up with pads on before the game and staying loose on the sideline throughout the game. The coaching staff made the decision not to play him, but Chryst was encouraged by the work.
“He’s ahead of what people thought,” Chryst said. “He was excited to be back in uniform. He was one of the first guys onto the field. I’m looking forward to him practicing this week and really seeing how it goes for him.
"There is a lot of steps that go into it… (He) hasn't played for a while, so looking forward to getting him working. He'll know. We'll know. It will be good when we get him there. There is still no guarantees on the timetable or how it goes. We’ve just got to keep taking it day-by-day and helping him through it."
Clement has not played since UW’s season-opening loss to Alabama. At the time Clement felt he tweaked his left groin and tried to play though the injury, a decision he later came to regret. He finished with 16 yards on only eight carries.
According to Chryst, Clement is working on being back 100 percent physically and mentally.
“The physical component is getting yourself back into shape, and then there is back into football playing shape,” said Chryst. “There is a confidence that comes with probably both; what was injured and (being) comfortable and therefore confident in your playing.”
Deal injured his ankle on his fourth carry at Nebraska game and will be also be evaluated mid-week. The redshirt freshman is second on the team in rushing (357 yards) and tied for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns.
VOLTZ, TINDAL TO PLAY
Voltz’s injury occurred on the final offensive play of UW’s win at Nebraska on Oct. 10, and he was available to play against Purdue in an emergency situation. Redshirt freshman Michael Deiter, who started the first six games at left guard, moved to center.
Tindal left Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter and Chryst said afterward that he likely only suffered a bruise.