MADISON, Wis. - The hits keep coming for the Wisconsin Badgers, who have now lost senior defensive tackle Warren Herring and junior fullback Derek Watt for the next several weeks to knee and foot injuries, respectively.
Herring, a 6-foot-3 nose tackle, had surgery on his right knee and is expected to miss four to six weeks. That timetable would put Herring on track to return early in the Big Ten season.
In the meantime the Badgers will have to rely on sophomore defensive tackle Arthur Goldberg and two true freshmen, both of whom might have to play this Saturday according to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Conor Sheehy already saw the field for the Badgers against LSU, but Aranda said Jeremy Patterson might also have to see the field a little ahead of schedule.
"Our youth is going to have to step up," Aranda said. "A lot is going to be expected of [Conor] now. And then Patterson we're looking at taking to the hotel [for the game] and being in the mix. That's a possibility as well. All of that has opened up with Warren being injured."
For his part Goldberg played over 50 snaps against LSU, even though the plan going in was to have him on the field for about 25 plays. Goldberg will start at nose tackle with Herring sidelined, and he said that he knows he's suddenly inherited a lot of responsibility.
"I know there is more pressure on me, because after me I know there's two freshmen [on the depth chart] who don't have that much experience, and neither do I," Goldberg said.
The Badgers did get a bit of good news on their defensive line, though. Senior defensive end Konrad Zagzebski is limited in practice as a precaution, but he is expected to play this weekend against Western Illinois.
Zagzebski suffered an upper body injury against LSU that forced him to leave the game on a stretcher before being taken to the hospital, but told reporters today that all tests since then have come back negative.
As for Watt, the Badgers don't expect to have him back until November. Derek Straus will take over as the team's primary fullback until Watt returns, but he doesn't provide the same kind of versatility in the offense. The Badgers wanted to use Watt as a hybrid tight end this season so he could contribute more in the passing game, but those plans are obviously on hold until he can return to the field.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.