Badgers take unproven kicking unit to Illinois
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--When Wisconsin travels to Illinois today, it will pack a field-goal unit that is unproven and in transition.
Sophomore Jack Russell prevailed in a competition with freshman Andrew Endicott and is set to kick field goals and extra points, with Endicott continuing to handle kickoffs.
“Jack will kick in this game and we'll see how it goes,” UW coach Gary Andersen said after practice Thursday.
And if UW needs a long field-goal attempt, of perhaps 45 yards or longer?
Enter senior linebacker Chris Borland.
“He hasn't missed yet,” Andersen said.
How many kicks has Borland attempted in practice?
“Two,” Andersen said with a grin. “Two for two. Better than 0 for 2.”
Russell, from Waunakee, missed both his field-goal tries last season and his lone attempt this season. The distances: 31, 33 and 41 yards.
Borland's only kicking experience at UW came when he was a freshman in 2009. He made all three extra-point attempts in the regular-season finale at Hawaii.
According to Andersen, Russell had a solid week of practice.
“He's done a good job,” he said. “He is stepped up and he is ready to go. We'll put him in that spot and see how he handles it.”
Borland, arguably the best all-around player on the team, said recently he wouldn't lobby to kick field goals because he wanted to focus on helping the defense improve.
“He is good at anything he tries to do athletically it seems,” Andersen said. “We tried it a few weeks ago and he made it. We worked a little bit more this week, timing it up and giving him a little bit coaching.”
Biegel slowing down
Redshirt freshman linebacker Vince Biegel had his best game at UW last week against Northwestern with four tackles, including a sack.
UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, speaking Thursday morning on The Big 1070 in Madison and The Big 920 in Milwaukee, used an interesting analogy to explain Biegel's development.
In short, he likened Biegel to an energetic puppy who is learning to harness his energy.
“When you put on the tape, he is 110 miles an hour,” Aranda said. “And that was the issue early on. A lot of it was not having played a ton of football and not really knowing the scheme and what we're asking him to do.
“It was like having a puppy where you had a ball and you're trying to play catch with the puppy and a truck (drives) by and we're chasing the truck.
“We're chasing the kids. We're chasing the ball.
“Now he is just playing fetch. The focus is so much better. He is going to continue to improve because of his want-to. It is amazing.”
Injury update: Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (head), cornerback Darius Hillary (unspecified) and cornerback Peniel Jean (hamstring) have been cleared to play Saturday.