Wisconsin safety Hunter Voehler is expected to be sidelined with a leg injury he suffered Saturday night

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst defends a call during the first quarter of the home opener against Illinois State on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

This is an updated version of a story originally published late Saturday.

MADISON – Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard spoke confidently during camp that sophomore safety Hunter Wohler would blossom into a major contributor this season.

“I really think he’s ready,” Leonhard said. “We had a huge spring for us. Extremely consistent.”

According to sources, Wohler will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering a left leg injury in the third quarter of UW’s 38-0 win over Illinois State on Saturday night.

Wohler, a Muskego High School graduate, appeared to suffer the injury with 7 minutes, 34 seconds left in the fourth while diving to tackle tailback Wenkers Wright along the Illinois State sideline.

Wohler got up after the play and hopped off the field without putting weight on his left leg. He was on crutches and in a protective boot after the match.

“I’m kind of anxious to see exactly what happens and how Hunter is and what he’s going to be,” coach Paul Chryst said after the game.

Utah transfer Kamoi Latu or Preston Zachman could fill in for Voehler. Both worked with the No. 2 defense in camp and both played Saturday. Latu recorded a tackle and broke up a pass. Zachman recorded two tackles and an interception.

Even though UW lost safety Travian Blaylock (knee) in the spring, Leonhard played at least six safeties in the opener.

Wohler and John Torchio started, followed by Zachman and Latu. Freshmen Austin Brown and Titus Toler formed the third pairing.

Torchio returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to break a scoreless tie. With five starts and 27 games played, Torchio is by far UW’s most experienced safety.

“Torch’s role is going to be big,” Chryst said “And he was. One, the way he plays. Two, his understanding of everything. He’s good to play with.

“It was good to see Preston get in there and do that. You talk about experience and understanding… Torch obviously has that. Kamo’i is definitely doing some stuff…hopefully Hunter isn’t too bad.”

Outfielder Nick Herbig would not speak to the severity of Wohler’s injury, but acknowledged it was painful to see a teammate have to leave the game.

“Hunter is a good player,” Herbig said. “I hate to see him go down. This kid works hard. But it’s the game of football. Things happen.

“His head is up. He will be here for us every day.”

UW also lost starting right tackle Riley Mahlman (left leg), though his injury did not appear to be as serious.

The redshirt freshman was injured early in the third quarter while making a run on a third-and-goal play from the Illinois State 1.

UW called a timeout with 9:39 left in the fourth, but Mahlman stayed in the lineup for Braelon Allen’s 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. However, it was clear he was struggling to move on his injured left leg and was replaced in the next row by young redshirt freshman Logan Brown.

Brown had played in 20 games as a backup the previous two seasons and made the switch from left tackle in the offseason.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone did, but definitely Logan,” Chryst said. “Everybody knows we’re going to need a lot of guys this season. And the more you can be relied on to play, that’s good for this team.”

Mahlman’s injury came on a night when the Badgers’ revamped offensive line got its first test. Three starters return but only center Joe Tipman plays the same position he played last season. Left tackle Jack Nelson started at right guard last season and left guard Tyler Beach at left tackle.

Mahlman and another freshman, senior Michael Furtney, filled out the rest of the starting unit at right guard.

“Both of those guys are really good players,” Beach said of McLean and Brown. “They fought all over the camp trying to find out who’s where. Trying to find a starting five is always a tough job for coaches.

“You’ve got a lot of really good players, so the fact that we have some depth in the two-deep, everybody had all the confidence in Brown.

“Nobody was worried about anything. It eats the hell out of kids. I think she had a few pancakes today. I was really excited for him. I thought he played well.”

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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Status of UW’s Hunter Wohler, Riley Mahlman uncertain after injuries

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