The news of Danny O’Brien winning the starting quarterback job probably came as little to no surprise to anyone, but the other bit of news coming out of Badgers camp this weekend probably does surprise a few people and that news is there is a real battle going on at the Kicker spot.
A lot of people (myself included) assumed that Kyle French had the starking place kicking duties all to himself after seeing game action last season and having a strong showing this spring. But, apparently this needs a “Not so fast my friends,” as freshman Jack Russell has stepped up in fall camp and is giving French a real challenge at the spot.
According to Head Coach Bret Bielema after Saturday’s scrimmage Kyle French has been struggling as of late, but that’s not the case for Russell, the Waunakee native.
“On the flip side of it Jack Russell did very well today,” said Bielema.
The competition between the French and Russell is real and apparently has been since camp opened up, not just in the past week or so.
“Going into fall camp we thought it was wide open,” Bielema said on Saturday. “Kyle obviously did well last year his first four games, so you kind of believe those things will come out.”
French was 3-5 on field goals last season while Phillip Welch was on the shelf and Russell wowed crowds at both the state title game for Waunakee and in the state high school all-star game.
“Jack Russell is a very impressive kid,” Bielema said. “We all saw what he did at the state championship game, [and] I heard what he did at the all-star game. There’s just something to those type of guys.”
Taylor Melhaff, the former Badger kicker, was one of first guys to get the ear of Bielema in talking about Russell, who was a kid that he had been working with and was very impressed by. Bielema was impressed that a guy like Melhaff would have that many positive things to say about him so early on.
Perhaps as Badger fans and talking heads we were all looking in the wrong direction for a true battle in camp. It appears this one could go into the season opener at this point, unless French can get out of the funk he currently is in.
No matter who wins the job it’s got to be good for Bielema and Co. that should one begin to struggle they have a capable player behind them.