MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Badgers will be without No. 2 running back Chez Mellusi for at least the next two weeks, interim head coach Jim Leonhard told reporters during his news conference Monday.
Mellusi, who has 223 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards and two touchdowns this season, suffered a right wrist injury in the second half of Wisconsin’s 42-7 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday. The Badgers play Michigan State at 3 p.m. this Saturday in East Lansing and host Purdue at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 before their idle week.
“It will probably be more of a bye week evaluation of seeing how long-term the injury is going to be,” Leonhard said. “He’s definitely going to be out this week.”
Mellusi transferred to Wisconsin from Clemson ahead of last season and rushed for 815 yards with five touchdowns before tearing his ACL in a November victory over Rutgers. He had surgery and sat out during spring practices as he continued to recover.
“It’s hard for him,” sophomore running back Braelon Allen said. “No matter what he’s going through, he’s always going to try and be on the field to help this team out. He was having a tough time after the game. You kind of have the find the balance of letting him know you love him and that you’re there for him and also giving him the space (he needs). I talked to him to see how he was feeling post-surgery. I plan on calling him again today.”
Allen, who finished with 1,268 yards and 12 scores, carried much of the load in the final three regular-season games last season. He had massive performances in victories over Northwestern and Nebraska but struggled with “bumps and bruises” while being held to just 47 yards in a loss to Minnesota.
Now, though, he’s far more comfortable with and used to the physical demands of collegiate football. Allen leads UW’s running backs in snaps (242), carries (104) and yards (634) by wide margins. Mellusi logged 88 offensive snaps and 56 rushing attempts over six games, while fifth-year senior Isaac Guerendo has 41 and 21, respectively.
With Mellusi out, Guerendo (92 yards and three touchdowns) has moved into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, but others like Julius Davis and Brady Schipper could start to see more action. Davis has 83 yards on 11 rushes this season; Schipper has mostly played on special teams.
“It sucks (to see Mellusi) hurt,” Allen said. “Just seeing his rehab process (last year) and how hard he was working to come back… For things like this to happen, things you can’t really control, it’s tough to see.”
The Badgers ruled six others out for the week: defensive back Al Ashford (left leg), kicker Vito Calvaruso (right leg), tight end Hayden Rucci (right leg), outside linebacker Aaron Witt (right leg), safety Hunter Wohler (left leg) and backup quarterback Chase Wolf (right leg). Some of those players could return soon, Leonhard said, including Wohler and Wolf.
Wohler, a sophomore, started in Wisconsin’s Week 1 victory over Illinois State.
“He’s getting closer,” Leonhard said. “He’s doing significantly more in his rehab. It’s probably a situation where it’s going to be closer to the bye week, whether it’s before or after. We want to do right by him. When he’s available, he’ll be able to contribute for us. We’re excited to get him back. It’s just not quite that time yet.”
Wolf, a fifth-year senior, suffered a torn meniscus at the end of the preseason. UW’s No. 2 quarterback in 2020-21, Wolf has completed 15 of his 25 career passes for 155 yards with more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (2).
True freshman Myles Burkett is currently the top option behind starter Graham Mertz. Redshirt freshman Deacon Hill entered the transfer portal Sunday.
“His rehab is progressing,” Leonhard said. “He’s not back to where he’s ready to be on the field yet, but he’s moving in the right direction. With Myles, I am impressed with his maturity. He’s a young kid. He handles his business every day. He continues to get better and put in the work. We’re pleased with how he’s progressing early on in his career. We’re excited about what the future holds for him.”
In other injury news, senior defensive tackle Keeanu Benton will play Saturday against Michigan State. He suffered a minor right knee injury against Northwestern and missed the second half.
Cornerback Cedrick Dort went down with a head injury in the third quarter and didn’t return. His status for this week isn’t yet clear.
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