Nursing a broken foot, sophomore inside linebacker T.J. Edwards is hopeful he'll be back for Wisconsin's opener

After leading the team in tackles last season, T.J. Edwards doesn't know when his broken foot will be well enough for him to return to Wisconsin's defense.

MADISON – A freak injury has put the beginning of Wisconsin sophomore inside linebacker T.J. Edwards’ 2016 season in doubt.

Having a “tremendous summer,” according to head coach Paul Chryst, a mishap during summer conditioning has landed Edwards’ left foot in a walking boot and his status uncertain for the September 3 opener against LSU at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

“It’s tough,” Edwards said during Sunday’s Wisconsin media day. “I rolled it and could tell right away that something was wrong. I got the x-ray and it was a broken foot. It’s tough, but it is what it is. It’s an injury. It’s going to happen in football.”

Chryst confirmed Sunday that Edwards was the lone player battling a major injury entering camp, which begins Monday morning. That’s a good news for a Badgers program that had plenty of players banged up at the beginning of last camp, but bad news that one of its most promising sophomores will be sidelined.

A freshman All-American last season, Edwards led Wisconsin with 84 tackles and started 13 games for a unit that ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (13.7 ppg) and No. 2 in total defense (268.5 ypg). He logged a lot of reps in the spring mixed with redshirt junior Jack Cichy and sophomore Chris Orr.

Now he’ll spend the first couple weeks watching but takes solace in the fact that he put in a lot of critical work that should make his return nearly seamless.

“I think the spring was huge, especially with Coach Wilcox’s new twist on things,” Edwards said. “It was good to just get with that and get back out there with the pads on. This was a great summer with (strength coach Ross) Kolodziej. We were working really hard and I still feel really good.”

The goal for Edwards is to be back in the fold for the season opener, but said UW’s tough 2016 schedule demands that he not rush back until he’s fully healed.

“I’m not going to come back and risk another injury,” Edwards said. “LSU is a huge part of our schedule, but it’s not our whole schedule.”

Rand working to master it all

Garrett Rand understands the attention and expectations being put on his shoulders at such a young age. One of the top defensive players in the country last season, Rand committed to Wisconsin over a host of power five scholarship offers for a chance to play for a school and a scheme that fit him perfectly. Since arriving, he called the campus “the best of both world” with the academics and the football tradition, not to mention he’s excited to be closer to his mother’s side of the family in Stevens Point.

But with an experienced group of players in front of him in the defensive line rotation, Rand knows nothing is for certain.

“I don’t want to be entitled to anything, saying the strong freshman who benches 500 pounds is going to play,” Rand said. “I just want to learn as best as I can, soak everything up from the coaches and the players around me. Coach Nokes said he has a plan for me and he’ll give me a chance; I just have to go with that and excel.”

Saying summer conditioning was “a big eye opener” for him, Rand has been working on learning both end and nose tackle. He’s mostly been working at end.

“I didn’t realize how strong I was until I really came here,” Rand said. “It really helped me out a lot with the football aspect because it transferred to the field. It just clicked.”

Stokke to start at ILB

One of the first committed prospects in the 2016 class, Mason Stokke has been able to picture being a Badger for a long time. Now that the moment is finally here, Stokke is ready to start the process.

“It’s been really fun experience so far,” Stokke said. “It’s been a lot of work, and it’s really good to finally be here and be acclimated.”

One of the many versatile athletes in Wisconsin’s 2016 recruiting class, Stokke was a first-team all-state selection at both tailback and linebacker for Menomonee (WI) High last season. He was originally recruited to play outside linebacker but was changed to inside when arriving for summer workouts.

With Edwards out, Stokke has a chance to get some reps with third or second team.

“I feel like that position fits me well, and I’m excited,” Stokke said of ILB. “I played inside linebacker in high school and that was probably my strongest position. I just feel like I play good from side to side.”

Extra Points: Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Kevin Estes and receiver Krenwick Sanders aren’t on the 105-man camp roster but are still with the team … Redshirt freshman linebacker Ty DeForest (Marshall, WI) has transferred to Illinois State, likely in search of more playing time … safety D’Cota Dixon and center Dan Voltz will be brought along slowly in camp after offseason surgeries … Dixon has officially received a medical waiver for his 2014 season and is now a redshirt sophomore … Camp opens at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The media are allowed to watch the entire practice.

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