The University of Wisconsin football team released its first depth chart since the end of last season on Monday and it already might need revising.
In the biggest surprise, UW coach Bret Bielema picked freshman kicker Jack Russell to handle field goals and extra points, with sophomore Kyle French as the kickoff specialist. Coming into camp, the opposite was expected.
Then, Bielema watched Russell miss two of four field-goal attempts in a kicking competition at the end of practice, while French made all four.
"I think the way Kyle kicked out here today, that will probably be a live competition all the way up until the day it happens," Bielema said.
French looked good on all four kicks, with a long of 43 yards, while Russell pulled a 32-yard attempt to the left and was way short and left on a 49-yarder.
As for kickoffs, Bielema said French’s first one went seven yards deep in the end zone and had a hang time of better than 4.2 seconds.
"Even if they could split those roles, I think we’d be a stronger unit overall," Bielema said.
The other position that remains up for grabs is right guard, even though sophomore Kyle Costigan is listed as No. 1. Freshman Dan Voltz, who enrolled in January, had been working primarily as the backup center but is now listed as the backup right guard.
"We’re going to give Costigan and Dan Voltz an opportunity to see who can make the most amount of gains this week," Bielema said, adding he hopes to name a starter by Sunday.
Sophomore Joe McNamara is listed as the No. 2 center behind junior Travis Frederick. But junior Ryan Groy, the starting left guard, also worked as the backup center as he has done for the last few days.
"They’re just trying to move guys around at right guard, see who fits best," said Groy, who was a backup guard and center for most of last season and has also played fullback in the past. "I guess I’m the one who gets stuck with double duty."
When asked if he would move to center if anything happens to Frederick, Groy said: "I would think so. I think that’s the next step."
Another switch for Keefer
Redshirt freshman Jake Keefer, who moved from linebacker to defensive end following spring practices, is now a defensive tackle.
Keefer filled in after sophomore Warren Herring, the third tackle, suffered what Bielema termed a mild concussion earlier in camp. But Bielema said the decision was made to move Keefer prior to that.
"He just did a lot of good things in the scrimmage (Saturday)," Bielema said. "That was intriguing for us."
The 6-foot-3 Keefer’s listed weight is 249 pounds and he will probably have a hard time putting on much more at this point of camp.
"He’s one of those kids that probably plays a little bigger than he is," Bielema said.
Redshirt for Jackson?
Bielema said he always sides with a player on issues of whether or not to redshirt. That means freshman running back Vonte Jackson will likely redshirt this season.
After the scrimmage, Bielema said Jackson was one of the freshmen who could possibly play this season, likely on special teams.
After Jackson saw the comment, he posted on his Twitter account on Sunday he didn’t want to waste a year on special teams and would prefer to redshirt. The post was later removed.
Jackson is the fourth or fifth tailback, according to Bielema.
Bielema said he has had about a half-dozen players who have disagreed with the coaches in terms of the redshirt decision.
"Ultimately, it’s the player’s decision," Bielema said. "I don’t want to have a player start out as a freshman that’s disgruntled."
Junior backup linebacker A.J. Fenton will undergo a series of injections to try and relieve the tightness in his back and may not be ready for the opener. "We’re going to be lucky to get him back next week," Bielema said. ... Sophomore tight end Sam Arneson had arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday. There was no update on when he could return, Bielema said.