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Wisconsin Football Suffers Pair of Crushing Injuries Ahead of the Season Opener



Wisconsin football; Badgers head coach Luke Fickell
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell runs through a drill during fall training camp at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football team kick off a new era for the Badgers against Buffalo on September 2 — and when they do, the program will be without two projected starters.

The media met with the coaching staff yesterday. Colten Bartholomew of BadgerExtra reported that center Jake Renfro and tight end Riley Nowakowski have both suffered injuries and will miss time with foot issues.

While no definite timetable has been disclosed, coach Fickell did say that both players would be back this year but are unlikely to be available for the season opener.

Wisconsin Football Has Some Serious Injury Problems to Work Around

The injuries to Riley Nowakowski and Jake Renfro are a big deal for several reasons. First, Wisconsin football pursued Renfro to man the Badgers starting center gig. After missing all of last season at Cincinnati due to a knee injury, he suffered a stress fracture in his leg, causing him to miss most of the spring.

In Renfro’s absence, Tanor Bortolini has shifted inside from left guard, which elevated Joe Huber to the first-team offensive line. Now Bortolini must remain at center rather than play his most natural position. As a whole, the offensive line depth takes a significant hit, with him scheduled to miss considerable time.

And at the tight end spot, UW was already hurting for healthy bodies. Now Wisconsin football must lean heavily on former in-line blocking TE Hayden Rucci and true freshman Tucker Ashcraft because Jack Pugh is away tending to a personal matter.

In all likelihood, the Wisconsin Badgers coaching staff will need to use a handful of players out of position to get by when the season rolls around. These are incredibly disappointing injuries, with week one just around the corner.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.