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September 12, 2011

Notes: Smith's season 'in jeopardy'

MADISON - Devin Smith, who left UW's 35-0 win over Oregon State with a left foot injury, will miss Saturday's game against Northern Illinois.

Speaking at his weekly press conference, Bret Bielema hinted that his senior cornerback could be out much longer than that.

"Devin's season is in jeopardy," Bielema said. "If he comes back he'd be a fifth-year senior in a very strange and unusual way."

Smith played during his first season in Madison.

Because he never redshirted and because the 2011 season is still young, he would likely be eligible for a medical redshirt similar to what happened with Chris Borland a season ago.

The senior corner was scheduled to meet with doctors Monday afternoon to determine the severity of the injury.

"We'll know a little bit more by the end of the day today," Bielema said. "We're kind of still finding some information out on him today. I think we all want to know something. I want to know something during the course of the game, but basically the information they've given us is that he's going to see a specialist today.

"We'll find out how much we need to know."

Sunday night, Bielema tweeted that it was likely Smith would be out for an 'extended amount of time.'

"I'll tweet tonight anything I find out."

Junior cornerback Marcus Cromartie, who filled in for Smith once he became injured, is slotted with the No. 1 defense on the recently released UW depth chart.

More from the infirmary:

-Travis Frederick, who suffered a MCL sprain to his left knee late in UW's season opening win over UNLV, returned to practice Sunday afternoon. Bielema said he would likely play Saturday against NIU.

-Reserve defensive end Pat Muldoon won't play against the Huskies Saturday afternoon. He suffered a dislocated elbow against Oregon State. Bielema said Muldoon would be out at least one week.

-Kevin Claxton, UW's starting strong side linebacker, will return to practice this week after having a screw inserted into his right hand. Ethan Armstrong is listed as the starter at the position on the depth chart. A.J. Fenton is his backup.

-Kicker Philip Welch will not kick against Northern Illinois. Bielema was hopeful that he could return within the next couple of weeks.

Not a hot ticket:

For whatever reason, even though there are plenty of unique and approachable angles to Saturday's game against NIU at Soldier Field, there isn't much buzz leading into the matchup.

Ticket sales aren't nearly as successful as they were just a few short years ago when NIU played Iowa in the same venue, even though the proximity is that much closer.

"It was basically a carbon copy based off the contract Iowa signed," Bielema said. "I think the thing that is different…is that prices have changed significantly. I think that might have as big a factor as anything."

The hype should be there. Wisconsin is currently ranked No. 7/8 in the country and Northern Illinois is just one play away from being 2-0 and a team getting some attention in the polls. They are, in fact, coming off an 11-win season from a year ago and feature one of the better quarterbacks in the Mid-American conference.

"We're probably higher ranked than Iowa was at that time," Bielema said. "I think Northern Illinois is probably a little better ball club then they were that year too. It probably gets down to the finances and what people can afford or not."

Devin Gaulden making progress:

Devin Gaulden, a freshman cornerback from Florida, did not participate in fall camp with the Badgers as he continued to recover from a stress fracture in his leg. According to Bielema, he's getting close to making his return to the practice field.

"We'll get him back in there and working on the field this week," Bielema said.

With a general lack of depth at the cornerback position, at least in regards to game action, there are a number of freshmen that continue vying for an opportunity to get some meaningful reps.

If Smith is out for as long of a period as Bielema hinted, guys like Darius Hillary, Peniel Jean and Gaulden could eventually be granted their shot. And yes, though Gaulden hasn't practiced at all this season, he could potentially make an impact this year.

"He's a guy that has expressed since day one that as soon as he gets back out there he wants to play," Bielema said. "He's a tremendous competitor. I basically said, 'Hey, if we can get you going by conference play…' and he was like, 'Coach, I'm all in.' He did a lot on Sunday.

"He may be able to do a little tomorrow and if he can do a little more tomorrow maybe he can do a little more on Wednesday. If we can't get him this week I think next week might be a viable option."

Arneson gets in there:

In case you missed it, true freshman Sam Arneson received his first playing time as a Badger during Sunday's rout of Oregon State. Earlier this season Bielema said he probably wouldn't play Arneson unless he absolutely had to. Well, based on the way Arneson continue to practice and progress, he had to.

"He's been very good," Bielema said. "He's gotten into every situation. He was running against the ones and not holding anything back. He's been very surprising with how well he catches the football."

With several injuries throughout the tight end position - - Sherard Cadogan has been dealing with a foot injury and Brian Wozniak has been nicked up - - Arneson has been getting a lot of valuable reps during practice. It all just added up.

"Why are we repping this kid 50 or 60 practice snaps without him getting out there," Bielema said. "Sherard is in a boot until tomorrow and hopefully we'll get him back Tuesday or Wednesday. So we'll let Sherard stay at fullback and we'll work Sam into his rotation."

Quick hits:

-The Big Ten announced Monday that UW's game against South Dakota (9/24) will kick off at 2:30 p.m. local time and that it will be aired on the Big Ten Network.

-UW's starting weak side linebacker Mike Taylor was named the Big Ten's defensive player of the week. That's the second consecutive week a Badger has earned such distinction. Russell Wilson earned offensive player of the week following UW's win over UNLV.

-Russell Wilson did earn UW's offensive MVP award for his performance Saturday. Defensively, Bielema and his staff gave the MVP award to Antonio Fenelus and David Gilbert. Special teams MVP went to Brad Nortman. Offensive and defensive scout team MVP went to Derek Straus and Bryce Gilbert, respectively.

The following is the audio file from Bielema's presser. A notes package will be up shortly.
Bielema, 9/12/11


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