It has not been an easy season for University of Wisconsin junior right tackle Josh Oglesby.
He suffered an injury to his left knee early in the season, then lost his starting job to sophomore Ricky Wagner in the third week. Last week, Oglesby apparently aggravated the injury and will need season-ending surgery.
But UW coach Bret Bielema went out of his way at a news conference Tuesday to say he expects Oglesby to return to full strength and have a big senior season.
With senior left tackle Gabe Carimi departing after the season, Wagner is expected to move over to the other side. Oglesby would be a candidate to start at right tackle next season with redshirt freshman Casey Dehn, who is the current backup right tackle. Dehn held up well when he made his first start against Austin Peay, when Wagner was out with a shoulder injury.
Bielema said he wanted to get Oglesby involved in the game plan against Ohio State two weeks ago.
"There were some plays last year, he really handled Ohio State in the run game," Bielema said.
But Bielema could also tell something wasn't quite right with Oglesby.
"He would practice, but I could tell he wasn't 100 percent," Bielema said. "He didn't have the same things."
The knee swelled up at a recent practice. Further tests revealed what Bielema termed "a pretty significant knee injury that's going to take a 3- to 4-month healing process. It's not easy for him."
Oglesby has a history of knee problems. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, causing him to miss most of his senior year at St. Francis High School. Still, he remained one of the nation's top-ranked recruits at his position.
He injured his left knee against Indiana last season. He missed three games before returning to start in the Champs Sports Bowl against Miami (Fla.).
Bielema was the defensive coordinator when the Badgers were recruiting Oglesby.
"Josh has a unique story with me, because I was still an assistant, didn't even know I was going to be the head coach, but I can recognize a 6-5, 325-pound sophomore in high school, that we were going to want this kid," Bielema said.
Oglesby (6-7, 335) has appeared in 28 games and made 15 starts in his UW career. His biggest issue has been handling speed rushers. One thing Wagner has helped do is firm up the pocket for quarterback Scott Tolzien.
"For the most part, he really has given us that width of pocket," offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. "He's really done a nice job over there."
Bielema expressed his fondness for Oglesby, calling him "a great kid," who "wears his heart on his sleeve."
"I want him to have success," Bielema said. "You know what my bet is? (If) everything goes all right with this surgery, Josh is going to come back and have one special senior year, I really believe he's going to be destined to do that."
X-rays come back negative
It was a mixed bag for the other injured players.
"Some guys were a little bit better than we thought they were going to be," Bielema said. "Some not so much."
The positive news is Bielema said all X-rays came back negative, including for freshman tailback James White, who has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. White won't do anything this week and will likely be questionable for the game next week at Purdue.
Bielema said the injury "should get a lot better in a hurry. But if we were to play a game this week, he wouldn't play."
Tight end Lance Kendricks (ankle) also would be unable to play this week and his status is up in the air. Center Peter Konz (ankle) will get some work in practice this week. Defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (ankle) will have limited reps this week but should be fully cleared next week. Wide receiver Nick Toon (thigh) is expected to be a full-go this week.
Fall-back option in Ball
Sophomore tailback Montee Ball was effective catching passes out of the backfield last week against Iowa with five receptions for 41 yards. But his continued role in the offense likely depends on White's health.
Bielema said the Badgers have needed three tailbacks every year.
"You don't know how, you don't know when, you just know it is going to happen," Bielema said. "Thankfully, Montee was able to do that."