Carries were always going to be difficult to come by this season for Taiwan Deal, with Bradrick Shaw, Chris James and Rachid Ibrahim all also fighting for their share of the workload in the University of Wisconsin backfield.
The first week of Deal’s fall camp was an impressive one, though. The redshirt junior was finally healthy after an ankle injury hampered him in 2016, and it wasn’t going unnoticed.
"I think he’s lost a little bit of weight,” UW coach Paul Chryst said earlier in camp. "To me, he looks faster and quicker than any time that I’ve been with him. And I think it’s probably because he’s healthy, and you hope that it stays that way."
Unfortunately, Deal wasn’t able to stay healthy, and he’s now fighting to return by the start of the Badgers’ season in less than three weeks.
Deal, who played a major role as a redshirt freshman in 2015, underwent ankle surgery after UW’s Cotton Bowl victory and missed all of winter conditioning and spring ball. He’s now missed the last three practices of camp with a right leg injury, and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said Saturday that he doesn’t know if Deal will be healthy when the Badgers open the season against Utah State on Sept. 1.
“I thought he was having a great fall camp,” Rudolph said. "I’m just anxious to get him back. I think we all are. I did notice him having the camp he’s having. Hopefully this won’t be much longer and he’ll be able to get back out there."
Deal’s absence has led to more reps for true freshman Jonathan Taylor. Even if Deal remained out for an extended period of time, though, a redshirt would remain likely for Taylor unless UW suffers more injuries at the running back position.
UW continues preparing backup QBs
UW held its final open practice of fall camp Saturday, meaning it was the media’s last look at backup quarterbacks Jack Coan and Kare Lyles before the season begins.
Coan looked sharp and completed a high percentage of his passes on the day. Lyles had a rougher outing, throwing three interceptions during 7-on-7 drills.
The two will continue to compete for the No. 2 quarterback job behind Alex Hornibrook. While it remains to be seen how either would fare in a real-game situation, Rudolph believes Coan and Lyles are gaining confidence as camp progresses.
“I think at first, when the volume of the installations were big, I think it was pretty much being able to get the play out of your mouth and having some idea of what you’ve got in front of you,” Rudolph said. "Now, they’re really starting to understand the details of the plays, and I think it changes them from a confidence standpoint. Not only have you seen it, you’ve ran it, you’ve watched Alex three, four times, you’ve run it three, four times. I think you gain just a better perspective, and that gives you the confidence that I think they’re showing."
Connelly to return soon
Inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad said he expects Ryan Connelly, who has missed the past several practices with a left leg injury, to return to practice in a couple days.
Connelly could be competing with Chris Orr for a starting spot now that Jack Cichy has been ruled out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament earlier this week.
Inside linebacker Griffin Grady (illness) and cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams (back) returned to practice Saturday, while cornerback Madison Cone (left leg) and fullback Jake Whalen (right shoulder) were added to the injury report.
Outside linebacker Christian Bell (left leg), fullback Aaron Maternowski (head), safety Scott Nelson (left leg), tight end Zander Neuville (right leg), wide receivers Jazz Peavy (left leg), Emmet Perry (left leg), Kendric Pryor (moped accident) and George Rushing (left leg) and cornerback Caesar Williams (head) all remained out. Wide receiver Cade Green (left leg) and offensive lineman Jason Erdmann (right shoulder) were limited.
Pryor’s injuries from the moped accident are not considered serious.