University of Wisconsin left guard Jon Dietzen has been ruled out for Saturday’s game at BYU, while right guard Beau Benzschawel remains questionable.
Both of the Badgers’ starting guards are battling right leg injuries, per the team’s injury report, and the absence of both could leave some major holes in UW’s offensive line against a solid BYU front seven.
Junior Micah Kapoi, who’s played in 27 games with 13 starts in his career, will replace Dietzen in the lineup. Benzschawel has practiced throughout the week, but if he’s unable to play, the Badgers may replace him with an inexperienced sophomore in Jason Erdmann.
"I think Erds has had a good camp and certainly been in the system now,” UW coach Paul Chryst said Thursday. “He’s like a lot of the young kids, that you start to see it click for them and come on. I think we would have confidence in Erds should he have the opportunity to play."
In Benzschawel’s potential absence, UW could also opt to move left tackle Michael Deiter to guard and play a redshirt freshman — either Patrick Kasl or Cole Van Lanen — at one of the tackle positions.
Running back Bradrick Shaw (right leg) and kickoff specialist P.J. Rosowski (right leg) both remained questionable Thursday. Safety Patrick Johnson (left arm) is not expected to play.
Chryst said Thursday that Shaw, who missed Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic, has done more work in practice this week than last.
UW in the dark on BYU QB
The Badgers will be left wondering which quarterback they’ll see under center for BYU on Saturday.
Cougars starter Tanner Mangum injured his ankle late in their loss to Utah last week, and BYU’s coaching staff has declined to give any update on his status for this week.
"I think you can drive yourself nuts trying to figure out what’s going to happen,” Chryst said. "That’s why I still believe that the most important part of preparation is the things that you can control. Now, the opponent matters. What do we have to defend? What are we attacking? But it’s different if you saw a lot of tape on who it may be and you say, ‘OK, this is what the offense may be with this one and how it changes.’ You don’t know."
Beau Hoge, Mangum’s backup, hasn’t attempted a pass since his freshman year in 2015, when he completed 10-of-17 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception over four games. He also rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries during those four games and could certainly do damage with his feet if he played Saturday.
BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer told reporters Wednesday that the Cougars’ offense won’t change if Hoge does play but that they’ll cater to what guys do best.
Without much film to go off, it’s difficult for the Badgers to prep for what Hoge could bring to a struggling BYU offense. Chryst said Hoge’s limited 2015 tape won’t be particularly useful for UW this week.
“All I know is that if it was one of our players that played two years ago, we’d hope that it’d be a lot different,” Chryst said. "I think that you can do that to get a sense of the person. We’ve done it before where you go back and look at a high school tape, just to see what kind of skill set does that individual posses, but you wouldn’t book too much on it, I don’t think."
Effects of elevation
The Badgers don’t expect Provo’s 4,500 feet of elevation to serve as a major disadvantage for them Saturday.
Inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad coached in many games at a high altitude while at Cal State Northridge (1995-96), San Jose State (1997-98) and New Mexico (1999-2005). He said it “would be an excuse” and shouldn’t play a big factor for those who are in good shape.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who played a mile above sea level for the Denver Broncos in 2012, takes a similar approach.
“One hundred degrees, snowing, altitude, it does not matter,” Leonhard said. "Nobody cares. You have to go out there and execute. There are tips. There are tricks to handle it a little bit better, as far as being hydrated and things like that. You’ve got to lock in and just focus on what you can control and go play football."
The forecast may also help diminish the effects. After temperatures reached 90 degrees in Provo earlier this week, the high for Saturday is just 63.
Still, playing a game with less oxygen available will take some getting used to for UW.
Badgers wide receiver Deron Harrell grew up in Denver. He said the difference wasn’t noticeable when living in the area, but he struggled the first time he returned home from Madison.
“Once I go back home to work out, you can really feel it when you’re working out and stuff like that,” Harrell said. “It’s just hard to breathe, fatigue. Like you don’t have any energy. You’ve just got to fight through it.
“I think it’ll surprise (our players), but really it’s just a mind over matter thing. You’ve just got to fight through it. Don’t even think about it. Just play the game."
The kicking game will also be affected. UW kicker Rafael Gaglianone said the ball will likely travel three of four extra yards on field goals, and even further on kickoffs.
“Going into the altitude as a kicker, the ball flies better and flies deeper, so we’re excited about the opportunity,” Gaglianone said. "Maybe you get an opportunity to hit a couple far ones. … I’m assuming it’s going to be a pretty good range."