Luke Fickell unsure when Badgers will get two key players back from injury

MADISON – Defensive end Isaiah Mullens and center Jake Renfro expected to be key contributors for Wisconsin this season.
Yet both Mullens and Renfro have missed UW’s first two games because of injury and head coach Luke Fickell isn’t certain of their return.
“I don’t know when exactly it will be,” Fickell said Monday when asked about Mullens, who is recovering from a knee injury. “It’s Monday. It would be great if we’d get him this week. I don’t know if that’s the case. I hope. But we’ll have to see come Tuesday and Wednesday (practices).
“Because if you can’t go on Tuesday and Wednesday, you’re not going to be able to go on Saturday.
UW (1-1) hosts Georgia Southern (2-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday on BTN.
Renfro, who transferred to UW from Cincinnati, missed most of spring ball because of a stress fracture in his left leg and a significant amount of camp after suffering a right-foot injury. He was an all-conference center at Cincinnati in 2021, but missed last season because of a knee injury.
“Maybe he is a guy we could get back this week or the following week,” Fickell said. “Still don’t know yet. Be nice to see on Tuesday.”
Mullens, 6-foot-4 and 303 pounds, has started 10 games and played in 40 at UW. If healthy, he could help a unit that has been relatively quiet in the first two games.
UW used seven defensive linemen at Washington State. James Thompson Jr. was the most active member of the unit. He recorded 1 ½ sacks, two tackles for loss and five total tackles.
Fickell said no defensive lineman played more than 41 plays in the loss to Washington State.
“We’re setting the standard of the effort level you’ve got to play with,” he said.
Meanwhile, tight end Riley Nowakowski could return for the Big Ten opener Sept. 22 at Purdue. UW is off the following week and then hosts Rutgers on Oct. 7.
“I would hope and believe for sure after that bye week,” Fickell said.

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