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MADISON – Chris Orr needs an appetite suppressant.

“I’m starving, man,” Wisconsin’s sophomore inside linebacker said. “A lot of people say they’re hungry. I’m starving. My stomach is touching my back.”

Orr doesn’t long to make a plate full of food from the team’s training table disappear.

Rather, he wants to shed a blocker in the hole and drill a running back for no gain or a loss.

“I’m excited for it,” Orr said. “I’m ready for it. I’m going to enjoy the moment.”

Orr should get that moment sometime Friday night when UW opens the 2017 season against visiting Utah State. 

RELATED: Can Badgers be a top-10 defense again?

His wait began on Sept. 3, 2016.

On UW’s first defensive play of the season, Orr moved to his right and was met by LSU fullback John David Moore in a hole. 

Orr’s right leg buckled and he crumpled to the Lambeau Field grass.

The anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was torn.

His season was over.

“I could barely move,” Orr said. “When I extended my leg it was the most excruciating pain I ever felt.”

After surgery, rehab and spending the bulk of the season working as a volunteer assistant on the team, Orr is back on the field.

T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly are paired as the inside linebackers on the No. 1 defense but Orr is expected to get plenty of work in the opener. 

"You miss football for a year there’s not going to be a light switch you hit and it’s back," he said. "We’ll still be rotating in and out. I’m not worried about it."

Inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad saw incremental gains during camp.  

“I think he is getting better,” Bostad said. “I think his level of conditioning is getting better.”

Orr’s workload was monitored during camp, however.

“They cut my reps back a little bit,” Orr said. “They didn’t want my quad getting too fatigued."

He was also required to wear a protective brace during camp.

“When I first put it on I hated it,” Orr said. “I didn’t work out in it all summer. I didn’t do anything in the brace. I (said): ‘My knee is fine. I don’t need it. I feel better without it.’ 

“Then once we put the pads on, it’s just a little extra protection. I don’t really feel it anymore. Now I’m used to it.”

The brace came off recently and Orr is wearing a sleeve with padding that covers the kneecap. 

“It’s like a light brace,” he said. 

Orr is from DeSoto, Texas, just a few miles south of Dallas. That area hasn’t been affected by the flooding that has inundated Houston. 

However, Orr does have friends and family in Houston. He has been spending a significant amount of time following news coverage of the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“Everybody that I know has gotten out,” Orr said. “I started following it once it turned into a hurricane. I was shocked when it hit Texas. It’s crazy.”

As he focuses on the opener, Orr insists he has already punched through the mental block most players face when coming back from a serious knee injury.

“No hesitation at all,” he said. “I feel more explosive than I did before the injury. With how rigorous rehab is, you come back actually a little better, faster and more explosive than people think.

“I’m just eager to play. I got that feeling of filling the hole with fullbacks and guards out of the way in fall camp. … Now I’m just ready to play and let it loose.”

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