By TOM LEA
MADISON – The first depth chart Bret Bielema released early last week featured freshman kicker Jack Russell as the No. 1 field goal kicker.
This time around, just a handful of days out from the opener, the depth chart had sophomore Kyle French manning that position, as well as the kickoff specialist moniker.
Bielema has mentioned in recent weeks that he could see this positional battle lasting right up until kickoff of the first game. Monday afternoon at his weekly press conference, though, he decided to back off that claim.
“I don’t know if it will go to warm-ups,” he said. “It might go to Thursday warm-ups. Just because I think they’ve got to get a mindset after Thursday going forward.
“It’s been a back and forth deal.”
French may have a slight advantage over Russell simply because he’s already had kicking experience at the collegiate level, making 3-of-5 field goal attempts with a long of 29 yards and 26-of-27 extra point attempts.
“Both of them hit the ball fairly well on Friday night under the lights,” Bielema said. “We listed French as a starter in both phases because he’s been there and he’s done it. But I totally expect Jack Russell to get kicks on Saturday as well.”
Should Russell play as a true freshman he would only have one year of eligibility more than French unless an unforeseen redshirt situation were to crop up. If he were to redshirt in 2012 he would most likely have two full seasons of eligibility remaining after French exhausted his eligibility.
Bielema, though, doesn’t seem to be thinking redshirt in regard to Russell. He’s been very high on the Waunakee (WI) native all camp.
“I’m going to be intrigued to see how they handle kickoffs,” Bielema said. “I know both of them can hit field goals. Kickoffs will be interesting.”
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