Fall Camp Preview: Specialists

The last of our nine-part series, Badger Nation breaks down each position in the first Wisconsin fall camp of the Gary Andersen era. Today we examine the specialists, as UW looks for a stronger performances across the board.

This is the ninth in a series of nine previews leading up to the Wisconsin football team's Aug. 5 start of practice.

July 28: Quarterbacks

July 29: Running backs

July 30: Receivers

July 31: Tight ends

Aug 1: Offensive Linemen

Aug 2: Defensive Linemen

Aug 3: Linebackers

Aug 4: Defensive backs

Today: Specialists

Projected starters: Punter- Drew Meyer (Redshirt Sophomore), Kicker – Kyle French (Redshirt Junior), Kick Return-Kenzel Doe (Junior) and Melvin Gordon (Redshirt Sophomore), Punt Return-Jared Abbrederis (Senior)

Key backups: Jack Russell (Sophomore), Brett Nethery (Redshirt Freshman), James White (Senior)

The breakdown:

With the specialist position all seemingly locked up, the Badgers are not short of experience by any means. With the punting duties leaning towards Meyer and placekicking duties on French's feet, the Badgers have plenty to look forward to this season after having plenty of criticism in 2012.

With a consensus honorable mention all-big ten selection under his belt, Meyer will look to improve on his consistent first season as the team's punter. With 36 of his 80 punts landing inside the opponent's 20-yard line last season, Meyer knows that he can improve that statistic and give opposing offenses a tough time. With a 41.7 yard average, Meyer will look to put himself in the realm of elite Big-Ten punters.

With plenty to prove this season, French will look to show coaches Bill Busch and Jeff Genyk what he has to offer. With a 62 field goal percentage in his career, French knows that he will need to be more consistent if he wants to keep his kicking job in front of Russell. With only two attempted field goals in his career, Russell still has yet to make a field goal. His 14 of 15 PAT's helps give French a little break when needed. Look for Russell to learn from French this season as he will need to step in and be more consistent.

In regards to the return game, the Badgers are not lacking any speed. Abbrederis has proven to be a solid return man but considering his importance to the offense, but the Badgers will hopefully generate another confident return to take Abbrederis out of harm's way. With Gordon and Doe returning kickoffs, the Badgers will have plenty of speed and great hands to take advantage of opportunities. Head coach Gary Andersen expects that all three will be involved in special teams.

"Hopefully, in six or seven, eight, 10 weeks, we're sitting here and talking about us making the big plays that are changing games on special teams," said Andersen. "That will be the mindset as we go through camp and the mindset as we go through the season."

Burning Question: French or Russell?

With consistency lacking in the placekicking category last season, the Badgers have been up and down with French in the past. With the addition to Russell last year, the Badgers are hoping to get some kind of consistency from field goals beyond 30 yards. I feel that French will start the season opener and keep his job throughout because of his leg strength, but it wouldn't surprise me if Russell is thrown in there a few times if not more.

Biggest Strength: Experience. With games under their belt at each position, the Badgers do not lack the guys. Yes some of them have had up and down seasons, but their experience will be an advantage when it comes down to big games. They can only gain confidence from here on out.

Biggest Problem Area: The placekicking position. The Badgers have yet to have a confident placekicker the past few seasons. Hopefully confidence has built up for French and Russell as they battle for the starter kicker position. It will be interesting to see how consistent, or inconsistent, they may be this season.

Final Thought: There are really no doubts in the punt and return game. The Badgers return plenty of players at both these positions. The only question mark is the consistency at the placekicking position. The Badgers lost a handful of games last years because of poor field goals. Look for the coaching staff to thoroughly evaluate placekickers to have more confidence as they enter camp and the season. Meyer will have another great year and will claim more All-Big Ten honors as he did last season.


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