Wow, the time has really flown by… We're past the halfway point on our camping journey through the Badgers roster and today we look at an area that was rocky at best in 2012 and could use some improvement going forward – no, we aren't talking about the passing game, silly – instead today we are focusing on the Special Teams at Wisconsin.
The kicking game left a lot to be desired, while punter Drew Meyer shook off the rust in fall camp last season to emerge as one of the statistically better punters in the Big Ten. But, what does 2013 have in store for the UW specialists? Let us explore shall we…
Wisconsin returns every one of the specialists it had play in 2012, which includes punter Drew Meyer, who enters 2013 as the 5th best returning punter in the league after averaging 41.5 yards per punt last season. Considering the company ahead of him the Badgers are in plenty good shape with him being the guy to help change field position during games.
While Wisconsin returns both of their kickers from last season, it's not all that comforting considering as a team the Badgers ranked DEAD LAST in the Big Ten in field goal percentage. UW hit on just 55.6% of their attempts last year. Clearly something needs to change.
Questions Entering Fall Camp:
Will a Kicker Actually Emerge? Last season Kyle French was all of 62.5% on field goals and 38-40 on PAT's – not exactly what UW fans are used to. Freshman Jack Russell got a chance and blew it by going 0-2 on his attempts and Bielema had a quick hook for him as well, going back to French. Wisconsin has brought in yet another option at kicker, Andrew Endicott, following spring practice and that's not necessarily the best of signs if you are French or Russell.
Who Will Return Kicks/Punts? Both Jared Abbrederis and Kenzel Doe have shown to be great punt returners at Wisconsin. Who can forget Doe's momentum shifting return against Utah State (ironically), right? Problem is, both could be counted on heavily in the passing game and therefore may not be the guys in the return game.
Melvin Gordon is a home run threat every time the ball is in his hands, but his role is really going to increase this season as a full-time running back. So, again… Does Wisconsin risk him on kickoff return duty? This could be one of the more intriguing areas of fall camp and no one has really even talked about it much at all.
Player(s) to Watch:
Jack Russell - Reports say that Russell spent part of this summer working with former Badger kicker Taylor Mehlhaff and that hopefully means improvement in his game. At the end of the day he may have the stronger leg and if the time he spent dedicating himself to his craft this offseason pays off he could win the kicking job when it's all said and done.
Corey Clement - Clement could be an interesting case of a player needed to fill a role on special teams as a possible returner. He's fast and while he's also pretty big it will be interesting to see exactly who the Badgers throw back on the return units. Watching to see if Clement fulfills a role on special teams is something worth keeping one eye on in camp.
Projected Depth Chart:
|Position||1st team||2nd team|
|Punter||Drew Meyer||Stephen Salata|
|Kicker||Kyle French||Jack Russell|
|KR||Melvin Gordon||Kenzel Doe|
|PR||Kenzel Doe||Sojourn Shelton|
|LS||James McGuire||Conor Udelhoven|