MADISON – The first two games of the season have produced two critical injuries to Wisconsin’s defensive depth.
A week after the Badgers lost sophomore Chris Orr on the first play from scrimmage, Wisconsin is expecting to be without cornerback Natrell Jamerson for the next four-to-six weeks with a left leg injury.
“I feel bad every time a guy gets hurt,” head coach Paul Chryst said Monday. “I feel bad for Trell. He’s a neat kid and fun to be around, yet yesterday talking to him he’s got the right approach.”
Jamerson was injured with 6 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Wisconsin’s 54-10 victory over Akron Saturday. He was unable to put any weight on the leg as he was helped off the field, eventually being carted to a tunnel and placed in a wheelchair.
UW’s starter at nickel cornerback and the top reserve behind Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal, Jamerson has played in 27 games for Wisconsin. Chryst said who fills his role will be determined during the week at practice. After tying for the team high with four tackles against the Zips, Jamerson had six tackles through two games.
UW’s fourth and fifth cornerbacks against Akron were junior Lubern Figaro and redshirt freshman Titus Booker. Figaro filled in for Jamerson following the injury and is listed in his spot on Monday’s depth chart in advance of Saturday's home matchup against Georgia State (11 a.m., Big Ten Network). Cornerback Caesar Williams – a true freshman – remains listed as Tindal’s backup.
“There’s a lot of different guys that can step up for us," senior safety Leo Musso said. “It’s really up to the coaches who they want to put in and who they’re going to want working at the nickel or maybe the cornerback spot, shifting guys around.
“I’m not too sure of who they have planned up, but I know whoever they do is going to do a great job for us.”
The Badgers also have to find a replacement for Jamerson on all four special teams phases. Jamerson was the team’s primary kick returner (averaging 20 yards on three kickoffs) and the top gunner on punt coverage.
“You’ve got four different guys who will probably get an opportunity,” Chryst said.
UW lists senior Corey Clement as the top kick returner, a role he worked on during camp and one Chryst said he’s a viable option for.
Should Jamerson need only four weeks to recover, he would return to the field following Wisconsin’s bye week for its primetime game against Ohio State Oct.15.
Fresh appearances on the depth chart
Wisconsin shook up its receiver depth chart for week three with the addition of true freshmen Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor is listed as senior Rob Wheelwright’s backup while Taylor is listed as a co-backup with junior George Rushing behind junior Jazz Peavy. Cephus replaced senior Reggie Love, who has yet to play in the first two games.
“They’re guys that have some talent,” Chryst said. “Both played in week one and got more snaps week two. They’re coming along, and we’ve got to keep helping them get better. I like what both A.J. and Quintez bring to the offense.”
Both players made their first career catches on Saturday, Cephus a 10-yard completion on redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s first scoring drive and Taylor made a pair of catches, including a 34-yard catch on a corner route that set UW up at the 2-yard line for another score
“(Saturday’s game) will slowly build their confidence, slowly let them know they can be a part of this offense and can make plays,” Peavy said. “They just have to keep growing and learning from everything they do, especially on those Saturdays.”
Defense Dominates on Money Down
Not only has Wisconsin’s defense allowed only 10 points through two games, the Badgers have been stifling on third downs. In the wins over then-No.5 LSU and Akron, Wisconsin has held teams to a combined 3-for-20 on third down.
“It’s guys executing their assignments,” Chryst said. “It always comes down to there’s an opportunity you have to make. Whether it’s a sack or a stop, I think a lot of it’s been we’ve been pretty good on first and second down … We’ve started the first two games the way we like to, and now we’ll be challenged again.”
Despite ranking second-to-last in the country in rushing yards, Georgia State has converted 11 of 27 attempts through two games (40.7 percent) and rank 71st in the country.
Extra Points: After playing approximately 15 plays Saturday, sophomore inside linebacker T.J. Edwards reports no setbacks with his left foot, adding he was surprised how good he felt … Chryst does not expect Clement to be limited in any way after missing the second half against Akron … Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jon Dietzen is listed as questionable with a right leg injury