The legend of University of Wisconsin senior linebacker Chris Borland could grow considerably on Saturday night at Illinois.
UW coach Gary Andersen shocked the assembled media after practice on Thursday when he said Borland would handle long field goal attempts against the Illini.
Borland made three extra point attempts at Hawaii as a freshman in 2009 but has never attempted a field goal in a game. Sophomore Jack Russell will handle the shorter field goal attempts.
The news was so startling, Andersen had to assure the reporters ahead of time he was being serious.
“Jack will kick in this game and we’ll see how it goes,” Andersen said. “On a completely serious note, Chris Borland is also in the mix. … If we’re going to go try a long one, it’s probably going to be Chris Borland, as crazy as that may seem.”
Andersen did not specify how long an attempt would have to be for Borland to get the chance, but described his range as “45-plus,” and added he didn’t miss from 45 yards in practice this week.
Asked how many field goals Borland attempted from that distance, Andersen smiled and said, “Two-for-two. Better than 0-for-2.”
The idea of using Borland, who does most of his kicking on the side, while goofing around, shows how messed up UW’s kicking situation has become.
Kyle French lost the job after badly missing a 38-yard attempt against Northwestern last week. It was his second miss in three attempts. The other miss was a crucial 32-yarder against Ohio State, leaving him 5-for-8 on the season.
Russell has missed his only attempt of the season, a 31-yarder in the second game against Tennessee Tech. He is 0-for-3 in his career, having missed both attempts last season.
One of the biggest problems Russell has had is not getting a chance to redeem himself after a miss.“I never felt any of those kicks have affected me as much as maybe the coaches (thought),” Russell said. “I’ve been able to get over stuff pretty easy.
“When I do have that miss, they never let me go and redeem myself, which is the most frustrating part of that, having to sit on that miss and not getting another opportunity at it.”
Russell was kicking well in the preseason and challenging for the field goal job when he suffered a partially torn meniscus cartilage in his right (kicking) leg at the beginning of the final week of camp. It happened while he was working on kickoffs.
He got the chance to attempt the field goal against Tennessee Tech after French missed an extra point.
Russell insisted he was ready, but he seemed a little surprised when he was sent onto the field.
“Obviously, I was prepared to get in but I wasn’t completely expecting to get in that game,” he said. “That was extremely frustrating because it was a short field goal and I thought I hit it well, I just caught enough of the turf to open up my foot and just push it barely right.”
Now, it will be Borland waiting in the wings for his chance. There are no guarantees Borland will get a chance if there is a kick in the 45-yard range. It will depend on how Andersen feels at the time. But at this point, what could it hurt?
“It’s not going to be a drastic change,” Andersen said of how the field goal kicking will impact strategy. “I feel pretty good about Jack kicking the ball, about the same place we were trying them before (with French). We may go for it. It’s a feel thing,” the coach added.
Borland did get some coaching this week on his kicking form, but not too much.“We tried it a few weeks ago,” Andersen said. “He does a good job. So, we worked a little bit more on it this week, getting it there, timing it up and giving him a little bit of coaching. Not too much coaching, though, we don’t want to take it out of him. So, we’ll let him go.”
Report: French to leave
French will not be back for his senior season, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The redshirt junior posted the news on his Facebook page.
“I want to personally thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career in football,” he wrote, according to the newspaper. “The coaches have asked me to forgo my senior season and focus on my career outside of football after this season. It has been a great ride, a time I’ll never forget and I’m excited for what is to come.”
Andersen said wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and cornerback Darius Hillary, who left the previous game with injuries, have been cleared to play. Abbrederis suffered a head injury, while Hillary left the game with an unspecified injury.
“Nothing more than normal game stiffness,” Andersen said of how Hillary is feeling.• Andersen said he agreed with the decision this week by junior wide receiver Chase Hammond, who announced he is leaving the team due to injury problems.
“He’s worked hard,” Andersen said. “There just becomes a time where what you’re putting into it, you’re not getting any return.”
• The Wildcat formation used last week included James White behind center and running back Corey Clement lined up in the slot. Andersen said it will also be used at times with Melvin Gordon, as well, with all three backs on the field at the same time.