MADISON - The injury bug has bitten Mike Taylor once again.
Taylor, Wisconsin's team leader in solo tackles (20) and total tackles (43), has been diagnosed with a torn right ACL and will miss the remainder of the season and most likely spring football, according to head coach Bret Bielema Tuesday.
"Mike's a gifted football player," Bielema said. "We knew that going back. All the way up until Saturday had been pretty healthy from a playing standpoint all seven games."
Taylor injured the knee when he planted wrong in the second quarter of Wisconsin's 20-10 loss to then-No.11 Iowa on Saturday. He had three tackles up to that point and had started all seven games for the Badgers.
After missing most of his redshirt season after neck surgery, Taylor battled through spring football with lingering hamstring issues and missed the few two weeks of fall camp with hamstring and groin issues. When he was healthy, however, Taylor, from Ashwaubenon, impressed the coaching with his ability to read and make plays, making him a natural fit to start at the weakside linebacker position.
"The good news is, he's a redshirt freshman that has three years in front of him," Bielema said. "The way it looks right now is that he'll have surgery within the next two weeks and will probably miss spring ball, but be ready for summer workouts."
True freshman Chris Borland, who led UW with 10 tackles, including 2 1/1 for loss, against Iowa, is expected to be the started, although he's battling shoulder, groin and hip issues. Junior Blake Sorensen, who is essentially the backup at all three linebacker positions, will be involved, along with Kevin Rouse, Leonard Hubbard and Matthew Groff.
"What we are going to try and do is evaluate the next three days and there are a couple freshman that you would ideally like to redshirt," Bielema said, "but that's not beyond the possibility is one of them jumps out in the next week in a half."
After the Seventh Game, they Rested
Looking at the conference schedule roughly three years ago, Bielema knew that this week would come at a good time for his players. With half the conference slate over, Wisconsin should be fully rested for the stretch run of the season.
More importantly, the bye comes during the middle of October, one of the busiest academic times for student-athletes, and on the heels of back-to-back weeks against two challenging conference opponents. Knowing that, it was essential for Bielema to keep this week a bye week when the Badgers were in the latter portions of finishing their non-conference schedule.
"We had one game we needed to fill and one of the options was putting it into this week," Bielema said. "I was very resistant to doing and thankfully now, I did."
The goal for this week, according to Bielema, is to give their second-string players more repetitions than the starters, putting an emphasis on getting those guys ready for the stretch run and challenging other players to impress the staff.
"I was really strong after practice with guys that haven't been put in the position to be on the field yet," Bielema said. "We need them to take the urgency to get there, because you never know when that number is going to be called. If you are a guy that has been traveling with us through these games and you haven't contributed in anything yet, whether it be a special teams role or a backup role or finishing out a game, you need to take it personally that you haven't shown us coaches that you aren't worthy of it and it's just a matter of time before somebody behind you passes you up."
The Badgers practiced today and will practice tomorrow and Thursday and get a long weekend off before returning Sunday to start fully preparing for Purdue a week from Saturday.
Looking for a Kick
In order to try and better Philip Welch, Bielema is trying to apply pressure on his sophomore kicker, a move spurred by Welch's inconsistencies this season in field goal situations. Bielema moved redshirt Alec Lerner with the first-team unit and split the reps half-and-half. Welch was 4-for-4 while Lerner was 3-for-4, missing his first kick.
"The first one I almost knew he was going to miss when I moved him over," Bielema said. "I didn't tell him I was going to do it and I wanted to rattle him."
Extra Points: Garrett Graham (concussion) is ‘good' according to Bielema and went through limited practice Tuesday and will participate in scout-team work against Purdue … Graham, John Clay (foot), Gabe Carimi (shoulder) and Bill Nagy (ankle) worked out with the strength staff and not with the team, a decision made by Bielema to keep them fresh and give other players reps … UW is hoping to get a handle on the depth of the cornerback play these next two weeks ... Bielema thought J.J. Watt played his healthiest game on Saturday, and therefore his best game of the season.