Notes: Kicking Game Get Exposure

Getting a chance to finally put some pressure on the kickers during spring, Jack Russell and Andrew Endicott deliver mixed results in the annual spring game Saturday.

MADISON - Spending most of the spring indoors didn't give Gary Andersen and the rest of Wisconsin coaching staff much time to evaluate the specialists at his disposal.

Maybe that's why Andersen wasn't as considered with the end results as much as he was thrilled his two kickers – Jack Russell and Andrew Endicott – finally had a little pressure put on them.

"It's good to get those kids in that situation," said Andersen, as the kicking game made up all the offense in the scored part of the 6-0 final score Saturday. "We've been fairly solid in the kicking game, and they don't get challenged a whole bunch in spring. The kicking game, their challenge was the cold weather kicking that they had while we were in the indoor early in the spring and they were outside in the cold weather. But I thought those kids have worked together."

Junior Jack Russell, who took the starting job from Kyle French at the midpoint of last season, missed a 36-yard attempt during the situational drills, but went 2-for-3 in the scrimmage portion of the second half, making kicks of 41 and 30 yards. Russell badly missed wide left from 44 yards in the second half, but UW was using a new holder – redshirt quarterback Connor Senger – and the ball appeared to be tilted on contact.

Russell's miss in the controlled portion of the scrimmage irritated Andersen, as his four-letter word reaction was picked up by the Big Ten Network microphone.

Andrew Endicott, who handled kickoffs last season, made a 36-yard try in the first half and missed a 44-yard kick in the second half.

Improving the kicking game has been a point of emphasis for Andersen and special teams coach Jeff Genyk. After both French and Russell made fewer than 70 percent of their kicks, Wisconsin recruited kicked Rafael Gaglianone, who will join the kicking competition in the summer.

"They take a lot of pride as a group, and Jack, he's hitting the ball pretty cleanly," said Andersen. "It came off his foot a couple times pretty nice today. He missed the one, but he also had some very good things going, and I liked the snaps."

Spike in Excitement

Wide receiver Kenzel Doe can't remember the last time he spiked a football after a touchdown.

So in his final spring game and wanting to generate some excitement among his teammates, Doe didn't think twice about slamming the pigskin to the turf after hauling in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tanner McEvoy in the first half of the spring game.

"Before the game I was thinking if I score what am I going to do," said Doe. "I just lost all type of thinking out there and I was like, ‘It's the spring game. I really don't care.' Coach A wasn't going to get mad. They are always looking for that type of energy. It was just a great play and a great time out there."

Doe delivered the spike right in front of the official, which resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was never enforced.

"It was a great feeling," said Doe. "I just wanted to have fun with it."

Caution with Wheelwright

After missing most of spring practice with a knee injury, sophomore wide receiver Rob Wheelwright appeared to take a step in contributing in the spring game after returning on a limited basis for practices Tuesday and Thursday.

That wasn't good enough for Andersen, who didn't want to take the chance with a receiver he hopes will be a big part of the offense in 2014.

"He's not 100 percent yet but we project him and expect him to be 100 percent before he goes home for the three-week break in the summer," said Andersen. "That needs to happen. If that doesn't happen, we've done ourselves a real disservice. It's got to happen because he needs to be on the field to get any better. Right now he's not anywhere close to coming in a game and playing for us. He hasn't taken snaps."

Lewis to Transfer

Buried on the depth chart since coming to Wisconsin in 2010, senior tailback Jeff Lewis has not been with the team since winter conditioning and will transfer.

"He wants to play somewhere, and I'm in the process of helping him get to a spot where he wants to be able to go play football," said Andersen. "That was decided really even before the bowl game. That's something he wants to do. He's going to get his degree, so I've allowed him to get to school, get his degree, allow him to work out and get himself in a position to transfer."

A former three-star tailback out of Brookfield Central, Lewis got behind when he redshirted and classmate James White played as a true freshman, being named the Big Ten freshman of the year. UW initially switched him to safety in an effort to get him on the field last spring, but Lewis struggled with the change and was moved back after a couple weeks.

"He wants to play tailback," said Andersen. "I think he's a tremendous kid, and I need to give him that opportunity to go play tailback somewhere his senior year."

Lewis finished his UW career with 202 rushing yards on 40 carries (5.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. His best season was as a redshirt freshman where he rushed for 187 yards and caught both of his career passes for 14 yards.

Unofficially Wisconsin still has 19 scholarships available for the 2015 recruiting class.


Andersen on the spring

"Overall, mission accomplished. Proud of the way the kids handled spring, all 15 practices. I don't think we had a bunch of ups and downs. Some days were better than others, but they always are. But it was a good group. Now the challenge will be to continually move forward and get the right pieces of the puzzle in the right spots and make sure the kids stay fresh and excited about the game of football and prepared for summer conditioning and then obviously fall camp."

Extra Points: Trent Denlinger delivered snaps with the second-string offense with backup center Aidan McNamara out with an illness … 8,204 fans attended the spring game, a far cry from the 60,000+ Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State drew for its Saturday spring games … Wisconsin came out of the game relatively injury free, the primary goal.

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