Wisconsin is one step closer to getting its top defensive player back on the field.
Chris Borland missed most of Wisconsin’s Oct. 19 win over Illinois after tweaking a hamstring. Coming off the bye week, head coach Gary Andersen said Monday that he fully expects the linebacker to play this Saturday against Iowa.
Borland returned to practice Thursday, leading Andersen to maintain his cautiously optimistic stance while also allowing that it’ll be up to the player and the medical staff whether or not he sees the field.
“It’s really going to depend on Chris and the trainers,” Andersen said. “The trainers have done a tremendous job of getting him to this point. Chris knows how to take care of his body.
“Like I said early in the week, I’m very optimistic and I expect him to play.”
A final decision on Borland’s availability won’t be made until shortly before kickoff tomorrow.
Borland is far and away the Badgers’ leading tackler with 57; the next closest is Michael Caputo‘s 34. He’s also tied for second on the team in sacks (two) and third in tackles for loss (three).
Monday, he was announced as one of a dozen semifinalists for the 2013 Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s best linebacker.
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury