University of Wisconsin junior quarterback Joel Stave jumped quickly into his rehabilitation schedule on Thursday after seeing doctors about the AC joint injury in his throwing shoulder.
Stave injured the shoulder in the Capital One Bowl game against South Carolina on Jan. 1 and was scheduled to have an MRI. The injury is not expected to require surgery, which means there is hope he will be ready when summer drills start in early June.
“I’m confident he’s going to be fine,” UW coach Gary Andersen said after practice. “I’m confident he’s going to be ready to go as early as June when the kids return for their summer workouts.”
Andersen said nobody on the medical staff has mentioned anything to him about the possibility of surgery.
“There are not comments or talk to me at all about anything with surgery,” he said. “It’s just an aggravation.
“Other position groups — linebacker, D-lineman, O-lineman — could play all day with that. But not when you’ve got to throw that ball with the accuracy, the way a quarterback has to play.”
Due to lingering pain in the shoulder, the decision was made to shut Stave down for the final week of spring practices, keeping him out of the scrimmage on Saturday. Andersen said that gave Stave a jump of a week to 10 days in the rehab process.
“Some might say it’s just a week, but he has already been evaluated, where we would have been evaluating him next Monday or Tuesday,” Andersen said. “Why wait? That’s why I had the sense of urgency to get it started.”
Andersen did not provide any specifics on the injury, but added, “It looks like it’s just something we’ve got to understand.”
Receivers under gun
UW has had more injured receivers than healthy ones throughout spring, but the news is not all bad.
“I’ve seen kids working like crazy to get better,” Andersen said. “I’ve seen a senior in Kenzel (Doe) who takes every rep and doesn’t bat an eye. Those are all real positive things.”
Help is on the way in the summer, with the Badgers having signed five scholarship receivers. The group is led by Dareian Watkins, from Galion, Ohio, and Krenwick Sanders, from Jesup, Ga.
“We need to get healthy with the young men in the program, get ourselves at full strength there and then we’ve got to rely on ourselves as coaches and the young men we recruited,” Andersen said. “A couple of those kids have to come in and be factors.
“If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to be a very potent offense. If we can’t do that, then it’s going to be tough. That is the bottom line. That’s where I see the offense right now.”
Opening at safety
The Badgers still have not identified who the starting safety will be opposite junior Michael Caputo.
The three candidates mentioned by Andersen are sophomore Leo Musso, senior Peniel Jean and freshman Austin Hudson, an early enrollee.
Musso, from Waunakee, played in all 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman, with one start. He has been sidelined lately with an injury.
Jean played in 12 games last year at cornerback, but struggled and moved to safety in the spring.
Hudson has been impressive, but he said a couple weeks ago he had not spent much time playing the deep post.
Caputo is expected to be one of the leaders on defense. He started 12 games last season and was an All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention selection by the media. He is at his best playing close to the line of scrimmage and that’s how the coaches plan to use him.
But the search is still on for somebody who can play the deep middle of the field.
“Michael is a young man we want to keep on the field, he’s more of a down safety,” Andersen said. “... Whoever can develop into being a post player when we’re playing our three-deep, our zone-dogs and our man-to-man coverage with a middle-of-the-field player, will end up being the starter. (It’s) still up in the air.”
One of the key developments on defense has been the rise of three second-year players who are gifted athletically.
Sophomores Alec James and Leon Jacobs are playing new positions. James has gone from outside linebacker to defensive end, while Jacobs has gone from outside to inside linebacker.
“They’ve accepted change,” Andersen said.
Chikwe Obasih is a redshirt freshman who has come along so quickly in the past couple weeks, he’s now regarded as a starter at defensive end.
Even if James and Jacobs don’t start, they are still expected to get plenty of playing time in sub-packages.
“It all starts with the corners and having three of those kids,” Andersen said.
The Badgers appear to have that in sophomore Sojourn Shelton, and juniors Darius Hillary and Devin Gaulden.
“Then it can move to getting faster in those third-down packages,” Andersen said.