Badgers Backfield Wearing Thin

Barring dramatic improvement in his bruised left leg during the next few days, tailback P.J. Hill probably won't be healthy enough to play Saturday when the University of Wisconsin faces top-ranked Ohio State.

Hill was not available for interviews Tuesday night after practice, however, he was favoring his injured leg and didn't appear capable of playing in a game.

That means UW (7-2, 3-2) likely will face a defense that is No. 4 nationally against the run (70.9 yards per game) and No. 1 nationally in yards allowed (214.6 per game) with freshmen Zach Brown and Quincy Landingham as the top two tailbacks.

Brown rushed 14 times for 40 yards and a touchdown against Indiana. In eight games, he has rushed 35 times for 118 yards, 3.4 yards per carry.

Landingham, who was moved to tailback from safety in preseason camp and missed almost a month after suffering a knee injury, has three carries for 16 yards.

Sophomore tailback Lance Smith, who has a team-high 6.4-yard average per carry and is second on the team in rushing with 354 yards in six games, won't be available. Smith is suspended for UW's five regular-season road games because of his involvement in a July fight with his girlfriend.

UW could utilize fullbacks Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester, both of whom are capable north-south runners, before turning to the inexperienced Landingham.

Penn State rushed 23 times for 139 yards in a loss to the Buckeyes last week and most of the yards came between the tackles as the Nittany Lions attacked the heart of the Ohio State defense.

Getting to the perimeter against Ohio State's speed is difficult and the Buckeyes have disrupted running plays with timely blitzes.

However, both tackles are sophomores and first-year starters who don't always hold the point of attack.

Like Pressley and Rentmeester, Brown is a north-south runner who generally hits the hole quickly.

Although Brown is averaging fewer than 4 yards per carry, UW coach Bret Bielema expressed confidence in his ability to prepare and execute the offense.


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