MADISON - The University of Wisconsin will have one of its most important pieces – nose guard Warren Herring -- back in the lineup this week.
While Herring said he was taking it day-by-day, and his position coach, Chad Kauha’aha’a, called him questionable for the Badgers (4-2, 1-1) game with Maryland (5-2, 2-1), it was defensive coordinator Dave Aranda who took any of the suspense away.
“We’re all expecting him to play,” Aranda told reporters after practice on Wednesday.
Herring hasn’t played since the opener against LSU when he suffered a knee injury on the final play of the third quarter. He had surgery to repair the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and targeted a return date of Oct. 4 against Northwestern. That date came and went without the senior back on the field, but he returned to practice late last week and was not limited at all this week.
“Every first team rep,” Herring said of his workload. “Obviously with the rotation and things like that, but all the reps I usually get, I’ve been taking.”
One of the leaders on the Badgers defense, Herring tried to maintain a positive attitude even when his original goal date didn’t end up happening. He now feels like he’s ready.
“Talking to the training staff and talking to the coaches they all told me just to make sure I was ready,” he said. “So that’s what I said, just a day at a time. That’s basically what it was. It wasn’t a set goal because I learned from that the first time but just taking it a day at a time.”
Before Herring got hurt in the opener, LSU had little success running the ball. They had just 45 yards on the ground through the first three quarters. But without Herring or defensive end Konrad Zagzebski, who got hurt earlier in the game, the Tigers gashed UW for 81 yards in the fourth quarter.
“He brings a big body. He can move when we’re slanting, so our base attack doesn’t change,” Aranda said. “I think we’re just that much better when someone wants to run in between the tackles. It’s a huge improvement for us. I think Warren brings some intensity and leadership as well.”
Herring’s return also allows Aranda to be more versatile in the defenses he calls. At 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, Herring is athletic enough to be able to do all the movement that UW has done with its defensive line this season, and he’s strong enough to play the straight up style they implemented for much of last year.
“Incredibly different teams in terms of style of play,” Aranda said. “Last year, all we did is play two defenses. This year, it’s lets try not to play those two defenses. So completely different. He’ll kind of allow us to play both styles.”
How much he’ll play against the Terrapins remains to be seen. On Monday, UW coach Gary Andersen said if Herring was cleared to play, he’d end up playing quite a few snaps. Aranda feels he’ll be able to use Herring in a variety of situations.
“I think there’s things in mix downs, first and second down where he can get some work and be able to play the run,” Aranda said. “And then I think some of the reps he is needed come in some of the sub downs, third downs.”
Herring will have to wear a brace on the knee to keep it stabilized and he said he’s comfortable with it.
“He looked really good [Wednesday],” Aranda said. “What we said [to him] was put it on tape going into today and he did. So I’m looking forward to [him returning].”