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Badgers' Clement nearing return from sports hernia

Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) carries the football during warmups prior to last week’s game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Camp Randall Stadium. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

Wisconsin first-year coach Paul Chryst has yet to experience the luxury of his predecessors of relying on a game-breaking running back on a weekly basis to carry the offensive load.

Instead, Chryst is left answering questions about the health status of his running backs. Chryst is hopeful that Corey Clement can return for Saturday’s game against Illinois. Clement has sat out the last six games after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Clement warmed up on the sidelines before the Purdue game last Saturday, but did not play.

“He’s ahead of what people thought,” Chryst said of Clement. “He was excited to be back in uniform. He was one of the first guys onto the field. I’m looking forward to him practicing this week and really seeing how it goes for him. There’s a lot of steps that go into it. He hasn’t played in a while.

“It’ll be good when we get him there. There’s no guarantees on a timetable. We’ve just got to keep taking it day by day and help him through it.”

Clement has not played since the season-opening loss to Alabama, when Clement had eight carries for 16 yards.

Besides Clement, backup Taiwan Deal has been limited because of an injury, allowing Dare Ogunbowale and Alec Ingold to shoulder the rushing load in a 24-7 win over Purdue. Deal is questionable for the Illinois game after sitting out the Purdue contest.

In addition, Wisconsin center Dan Voltz and cornerback Derrick Tindal are both expected to play against Illinois. Voltz, an Illinois native, sat out the Purdue game with an elbow injury, while Tindal has been cleared after injuring his knee in the fourth quarter against Purdue.

“I do anticipate both of them being available, and yesterday Derrick was better than Saturday, and Dan didn’t play Saturday, so he kind of felt better, so I do anticipate them both going,” Chryst said of Voltz and Tindal.

The Badgers (5-2, 2-1) can’t overlook the pesky Illini, who are coming off a bye week. Under interim coach Bill Cubit, the Illini have posted a 4-2 record and defeated Nebraska. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is a big presence in the pocket and has a strong arm.

“Yeah, he’s a good player,” Chryst said of Lunt. “I remember watching him when he was in high school, and I think he’s playing really well right now. I think their team is. I think they’ve got good receivers to throw to.”

Players to watch

• QB Joel Stave threw for 322 yards in Saturday’s win over Purdue to become the secondWisconsin quarterback in school history to pass for 300-plus yards in three straight games. Stave has passed for 322 yards in each of his last two games. Stave, ironically, has a 3-0 record against Illinois. He’s 4-0 against Purdue.

• LB Joe Schobert ranks second nationally in tackles for a loss with 14.5, sacks with 9.5 and forced fumbles with four. Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib leads in all three categories.

• LB T.J. Edwards, a redshirt freshman, logged a career-high 16 tackles in the win over Purdue. For his efforts, Edwards was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Edwards now has 54 tackles through seven games.

Series history

Wisconsin leads Illinois 38-36-7 (last meeting, 2014, 38-28 UW).

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