Better late than never.
That’s Wisconsin football head coach Paul Chryst’s thought process when it comes to the scheduling of the Badgers bye week during this season. The No. 25 Badgers’ (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) off week comes in the final weeks of the regular season, with only No. 18 Northwestern and Minnesota remaining on the regular-season slate.
The bye week comes much later in the season than is customary, which has its advantages, like focusing on fundamentals, Chryst said. UW will practice only twice this week — Wednesday and Thursday — giving the players a solid break.
“There’s no way you could keep it in game mode for two weeks,” Chryst said.
Chryst said he gave players an extra day off than if the off week had been earlier in the season. It also comes at a time when injured players, banged up from 14 straight weeks of work — counting training camp — can recover.
Chryst said Corey Clement and Chris Orr aren’t practicing this week. Clement returned from his sports hernia against Rutgers on Halloween, but didn’t travel with the team to Maryland the next week. Orr has sat out the last two games. In his place, redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Jack Cichy has slid into the middle, where he’s performed admirably.
In two games, Cichy has recorded 18 tackles. Against Maryland, he made eight solo tackles, with three tackles for loss and two sacks.
On a positive note, senior tight end Austin Traylor returned to practice. Traylor injured his shoulder against Iowa Oct. 3 and hasn’t seen game action. Chryst said Traylor participated because it wasn’t a contact-heavy practice, and that he’s not ready for full contact just yet.
Kickoff man Andrew Endicott is also close to returning, Chryst said. He added that Rob Wheelwright is out of his cast and has begun running in a pool.
“That group, we’ll probably just see what happens this week,” Chryst said. “We’re not going to try to force anything [Thursday].”
For Chryst and the coaching staff, this week provides a prime opportunity to hit the recruiting trail. After UW’s 31-24 win over Maryland Saturday, some assistant coaches hopped on flights from there to visit recruits. Chryst said he’ll be recruiting Friday and will continue watching film on Northwestern.
The Wildcats and Gophers will square off Saturday, creating an opportunity to scout both of the remaining teams on UW’s schedule at once.