After leaving the University of Wisconsin’s 24-10 victory over Illinois in the second quarter with a left leg injury, star running back Jonathan Taylor entered this week questionable to play Saturday at Indiana.
While the true freshman likely stands as the most important addition to UW’s injury report, Taylor’s one of just three key starters uncertain to be available for the 8-0 Badgers in what may be their toughest game of the season thus far.
Safety D’Cota Dixon, a surprise inactive against Illinois with a right leg injury, may miss his second straight game, while No. 1 wideout Quintez Cephus suffered a head injury against the Illini and has yet to be cleared.
“I think every team is going through that right now,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. "We’ve got a group that, a lot of the guys that are on the famous (injury) list that you get, you just see how the week goes. A lot of them are doing stuff (Monday), everyone, but (Monday) is a different type of practice than (Tuesday). Guys have to step up when opportunities come their way, and other players and other starters have to carry a little bit of a different load.
"We’re probably no different than any other football team in the country."
Every team suffers injuries throughout the season, but the Badgers have been particularly prone to such poor luck of late — particularly at the running back and wide receiver positions.
With tailbacks Taiwan Deal (right leg) and Sam Brodner (left knee) already out for the season, running back Chris James (left leg) joins Taylor on the list of those questionable this week, as does fullback Austin Ramesh (head).
Jazz Peavy and George Rushing aren’t expected to play at Indiana, while Cephus and true freshman Danny Davis (left leg) are questionable. If both Cephus and Davis both miss out this weekend, UW could be left with a receiving corps that includes sophomore A.J. Taylor and freshmen Kendric Pryor, Adam Krumholz and Jack Dunn.
Dunn and Krumholz have both seen only a handful of meaningful snaps, while Pryor has caught five passes over the last three weeks after beginning the season sidelined with injuries from a moped accident.
“It was huge, to have him step up and be a guy that we can throw the ball to, trust,” UW left tackle Michael Deiter said of Pryor. "He’ll work downfield blocking, too. … It’s just another guy that we can trust to make plays."
Chryst said he doesn’t know when Cephus suffered his head injury against Illinois, as the sophomore played the entire game. He did take a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit late in the second quarter in which Illini linebacker James Knight was ejected for targeting.
Dixon’s potential absence could hurt defensively. Joe Ferguson replaced the second-year starter at safety last week and intercepted a pass but also missed a couple key tackles.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, who has missed the last two games with a left leg injury, also remains questionable. With Loudermilk and senior Chikwe Obasih out in recent weeks, it’s left UW thin at the position.
Obasih, out since before Week 2, was cleared to return last week but played just three snaps at Illinois. He’s no longer on the injury report.
“Chikwe’s been a guy who’s been through a lot and seen a lot,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "Him even being on the sideline with us is definitely a big boost with just his voice of getting things going. Now with him being on the field, it’s a huge bump. … He’s a big part of what we do, and we’re happy to have him back."
Since linebackers Jack Cichy and Zack Baun suffered season-ending injuries during fall camp, more and more continue to pile up for UW.
It hasn’t sunk the fourth-ranked Badgers yet, and they’ll hope to continue overcoming their long injury list heading into the final stretch of their season.
“I think it’s just because we’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of twos, threes, that know in football that anything can happen,” Deiter said. "They prepare the right way. They prepare like they’re going to be the starter, and that’s got to be the way everyone prepares. It is football. People are going to get hurt. Stuff’s going to happen. If you don’t have guys ready to play, that’s the only reason you’ll see a team falter when they have injuries."