Purdue makes plans with and without top rusher

Updated: October 14, 2003, 6:42 PM ET

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Running back Jerod Void could be healthy enough to start for No. 13 Purdue on Saturday.

That doesn't mean he will.

Void sprained his right ankle last weekend against Penn State and coach Joe Tiller might keep him out of the Boilermakers' showdown with No. 14 Wisconsin -- even if the ankle improves this week.

"I'm anxious to see how he is as the week goes on," Tiller said Tuesday. "He may improve dramatically and still not play because of the turf."

Void has started all six games for Purdue (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) and has steadily improved. He ran for 119 yards and four touchdowns Oct. 4 against Illinois.

But on Purdue's first offensive play last Saturday, Void was gang-tackled and bent backward. Two trainers helped carry him off the field. Later, Void limped down the sideline, hopped on a golf cart and was put in the back of an ambulance.

Tiller at first feared the injury was a high ankle sprain, which could have kept Void out four weeks or longer.

"If it was a high ankle sprain, I wouldn't have gotten an injury report that said it was improving," Tiller said.

Void already has told Tiller he intended to practice Wednesday.

The bigger concern for Tiller is how Void's ankle would respond to the Badgers' new FieldTurf, an artificial surface made with a soft, rubber base.

So Purdue is making contingency plans.

The Boilermakers could rely on backups Brandon Jones and Jerome Brooks, both of whom have proven efficient when they had to be.

"We needed Brandon to have a big game (last Saturday) and he came through," Tiller said.

Jones' emergence was no surprise. He finished last season as Purdue's second-leading rusher and became the projected the starter after Joey Harris was declared academically ineligible this summer.

When Jones hurt his shoulder in August, Void won the job.

Now that the tables have turned and Jones is healthy, his playing time has increased.

Last Saturday, Jones got his most extensive action of the season Saturday and responded with his best game since October 2002 -- 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Brooks has been used primarily to give Void and Jones breaks.

He is the best receiver of the three and gives opponents a different look. He ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout victory over Arizona and leads the Boilermakers with a 4.7 average.

But Tiller knows his backfield faces a tough test this week.

Wisconsin (6-1, 3-0) allowed Illinois, Penn State and Ohio State to run for just 59.3 yards the last three weeks.

"I'd like to have a really, really, really, really fast guy who could get around the corner," Tiller joked. "We don't have that, so we'll see what we can do."

Whatever Tiller decides, quarterback Kyle Orton expects few changes in the game plan.

The Boilermakers' rushing offense (190.3 yards) ranks 22nd nationally and No. 3 in the Big Ten.

"We try to make the backfield as mechanical as possible," Orton said. "Everybody should be taking the same steps. If it changes anything, it changes the play-calling because they're different types of backs."

Tiller just hopes Purdue can find enough holes to fill the void -- regardless of whether his starting tailback plays against Wisconsin.

"We'll find out as the week unfolds," Tiller said. "He's better. If he doesn't play, we'll go with both (Jones and Brooks) and both will play a lot."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index