November 4, 2009

Smith suffers broken hand, out six weeks

MADISON - Redshirt freshman running back Erik Smith finally got to see some carries during game action in Wisconsin's 37-0 blowout win over Purdue. However, his five-carry, 19 yard performance may be his last as a running back during the 2009 regular season.

"He comes in and is probably going to miss the next six weeks with a broken hand," UW running backs coach John Settle said following Tuesday's practice. "By the time you think, okay, let's try to do something to get him rolling, something like this happens."

Smith is a shifty runner that offers a totally different style than that of John Clay, Montee Ball and Zach Brown. Smith utilizes his quickness and speed to provide a nice change of pace in the UW backfield. But through eight games, he has only 16 rushes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Though the coaches were conversing about increasing his role, that won't be necessary now with the broken hand, at least at the running back position. He still, however, might be able to contribute in other areas.

"Like special teams and things like that," Settle said. "We'll put a club on him. He definitely won't be able to hold onto the football so we'd be able to club him and he would still be able to run down and use his speed and make tackles on certain units."

As it stands right now, Smith would likely return from his injury sometime in the middle of December. Should Wisconsin continue to win and reach nine or 10 wins, there is a good chance the Badgers would be playing in a New Year's day bowl.

If that were the case, that would also give Smith a couple of weeks at full strength to come back and get back into full practice mode prior to the bowl game. Though he isn't a regular part of the running back rotation, the luxury of having him as an option would be warranted and could come into play depending on how the final four weeks of the season plays out and who UW will play in its bowl game.

"Right now, that's what we're hoping for," Settle said. "We're hoping to get him back for bowl prep. As far as running back, from our perspective, right now he's got to get that thing casted and hopefully it sets and heals quickly. We'll move on from there."

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