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Badgers football: Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun out for season with left foot injury

August 29, 2017 GMT

The University of Wisconsin football team suffered another major injury blow at linebacker as its season-opening game against Utah State draws near.

After inside linebacker Jack Cichy tore his anterior cruciate ligament earlier this month, the Badgers announced Sunday that outside linebacker Zack Baun will miss the entire season with a left foot injury.

“It really wasn’t until a couple days ago when he kind of got the final test in what he needs to do to fix that,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “You feel bad. He missed a lot of games last year, and I thought he was doing some really good things.”

While Baun wasn’t an impact starter like Cichy, he was expected to serve as a vital piece to UW’s depth on the edge of its 3-4 defense.

Without the redshirt sophomore available, that leaves Tyler Johnson, who saw very limited playing time on defense last season, and junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel as the second-team players at the position behind starters Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs.

“(Johnson’s) been playing really well,” inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “Even last year, he’s a guy who progressed a lot. … He’s made a lot of plays. He’s made a lot of good plays and done some really good things on special teams, so he’s going to see a good amount of time on the field. I’m excited for him. He works really hard, so he’s earned it.”

Chryst also said “it’ll be interesting” to see how redshirt freshman Christian Bell progresses after he missed a big chunk of fall camp with a left leg injury.

Connelly named starter over Orr

Former walk-on Ryan Connelly beat out Chris Orr to replace Cichy in the starting lineup for the Badgers this season.

Connelly, a redshirt junior, started the final seven games of last year when Cichy and Orr were both injured and finished the season with 59 tackles, seven for a loss.

“I think that he’s playing fast,” Chryst said of Connelly. “He’s trusting himself. I think he’s a really good football player. Certainly, we think Chris is a good football player, too. Ryan, he looks comfortable, and he’s played, so that experience of playing, having started, helped him in his preparation. He missed spring football, but I think he’s come back and hasn’t missed a beat. I’ve liked a lot of what Ryan’s been doing.”

Orr still expects to see plenty of playing time. He started six games as a true freshman in 2015 before tearing his ACL on the first defensive snap of last season against LSU. Orr said earlier this month that he’s regained full confidence in his knee and feels even quicker than he did before the injury.

Kapoi battling Dietzen at LG

Redshirt sophomore Jon Dietzen and redshirt junior Micah Kapoi were listed as co-starters at left guard on UW’s first depth chart of the season.

Dietzen started eight games at left guard for the Badgers last year, while Kapoi started two. During open practices this fall, Dietzen took the majority of first-team reps, but it appears UW plans on playing both in the early part of the season.

“The number one thing that you hope for is that they’re all available going forward,” Chryst said. “I go back to what I said last year about the quarterback spot. If guys have earned the right to play, then they should play. At some point throughout the season, maybe there’s separation, but both Micah and Jon have earned the right to play.

“We don’t as a staff try to overthink it. You’d love to have a season where you play five guys (on the offensive line), right? And there’s no changes the whole time. But you never do that at the expense of a guy that’s earned the right to play.”

From the infirmary

Along with Baun and Cichy, inside linebacker Mason Stokke (right leg) and running back Sam Brodner (left knee) have also been ruled out for the year.

Wide receivers Kendric Pryor (face) and George Rushing (left leg), running back Taiwan Deal (right leg) and fullback Jake Whalen (head) will miss UW’s season opener against Utah State on Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium.

With Pryor and Rushing out, true freshman Danny Davis joined sophomore A.J. Taylor as second-team wide receivers on the Badgers’ first depth chart of the season.

Extra points

Chryst said the Badgers are “not worried about a redshirt right now” for No. 2 quarterback Jack Coan. The true freshman could play early in the season. ... True freshman Jonathan Taylor earned co-starter status at running back with Bradrick Shaw and Chris James on UW’s first depth chart. … Arrington Farrar, who moved from safety to inside linebacker this spring, will begin the season as the Badgers’ fourth inside linebacker. … Cornerback Nick Nelson will be the team’s primary punt returner, while A.J. Taylor will handle kickoff returns. The second-team returners are wide receiver Jazz Peavy (punt) and running back Chris James (kickoff). … Redshirt sophomore Connor Allen is listed as the No. 2 punter, ahead of P.J. Rosowski.