Wisconsin went through spring ball without several key pieces -- running back John Clay and linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, to name three -- but the Badgers felt pretty good about their health entering camp.
Unfortunately for Bret Bielema's team, the injuries aren't going away.
Starting safety Jay Valai is the latest wounded Badger, as he missed practice Wednesday morning with an undisclosed injury. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus, Valai was "wearing a wrap on his lower right leg, was limping noticeably and was using one crutch to get around." Bielema is expected to provide an injury update after the team's second practice tonight.
Valai joins Taylor (knee), linebacker Blake Sorensen (calf) and defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (knee) on the sideline. All four players are either starters or in the mix for starting jobs, and Taylor will miss at least the season opener at UNLV following a second knee surgery.
Conor O'Neill is pegged as Valai's backup but missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday morning, so free safety Shelton Johnson filled in as the first-team strong safety during the workout.
No major cause for alarm yet, but the Badgers aren't loaded on defense and need these guys on the field this fall. I'll certainly be interesting to hear about Valai, expected to be the leader of the defense this fall.
In other Wisconsin news, athletic officials are asking for a $76.8 million athletic performance center, which would be used primarily for football with new locker rooms and weight training facilities. The proposal also includes upgrades to the McClain Center, and the scoreboard and sound system at Camp Randall Stadium.
If approved, construction on the new facility would start in December 2011 and be completed by October 2013.
The plans call for two tunnels to be built, connecting the new locker room in the proposed performance center and the stadium to the antiquated McClain Center, constructed in 1988. The locker room would include multimedia space, recovery rooms, steam and shower rooms and a coaches suite nearby.
According to the proposal, the athletics department would borrow $50 million against its program's revenue and expects $26.8 million in gifts and grants to pay for it. According to a fundraising document, officials are asking for $7 million for naming rights to the building.
Wisconsin certainly needs the facilities upgrades. A program that has been as successful as this one should have a much better setup.
Whether the university's Board of Regents agrees remains to be seen.