MADISON - Since arriving on campus in the summer, Rafael Gaglianone has acted like a sponge.
Having never kicked before at Camp Randall Stadium, the true freshman kicker has relied on his teammates and tight end/special teams coach Jeff Genyk to learn everything he possibly can about kicking at Camp Randall Stadium.
It was one of the main reasons that Gaglianone sought out Genyk during UW media day Friday and the two went over angles and alignment amidst the chaos.
“You have to come in open minded and seek info from all the upperclassmen,” Gaglianone said before practice. “There are a lot of things to learn and you’ve got to do it so quick. You’ve got to be crisp and you’ve got to be fresh. There’s no time to be a freshman if you want to play right away.”
Saying his biggest strength is consistency, Gaglianone struck first Monday morning, making all five of his kicks from 21, 21, 39, 44 and 49 yards with substantial power and consistency.
“This definitely is a big time opportunity just coming into a big time program,” said Gaglianone. “I expect to have a good competition and compete right away for the spot. I am just really blessed to have this opportunity.”
With the staff deciding midway through last season that Wisconsin needed to add a kicker in the 2014 recruiting class, Genyk targeted Gaglianone, a Brazilian exchange student who moved to the States three years ago and was a finalist for Tennessee Mr. Football after his senior year at Chattanooga (TN) Baylor School.
Genyk liked everything about 5-11, 231-pound kicker, but couldn’t evaluate him over the summer since NCAA rules prevent assistant coaches from doing any workouts with a football present. That meant until Monday, Genyk’s only breakdown of Gaglianone was from his high school film and talking to coaches in the camp circuit.
“We knew he has a very strong leg,” said Genyk “What I was impressed with was the consistency of his ball flight and him understanding his personal process so it can become repeatable.”
Wisconsin will also give Jack Russell and Andrew Endicott a look in camp after they split the kicking duties last season. Endicott averaged 58.3 yards and had nine touchdowns on 57 kickoffs last season. Russell hit 9 of 13 field-goal attempts after taking over for Kyle French as the team’s primary field-goal kicker in week seven.
“I thought Jack handled the transition quite well when he came in for the Northwestern game,” said Genyk. “I feel like Jack is mentally tough. I think he has worked hard with some flexibility and strength improvement to improve his leg strength. I have always felt really proud of Jack of how he handles adversity and how he can step up and eliminate the previous kick from his thought process.”
The first choice for Wisconsin is to have one kicker handle the extra points and field goals and another handle kickoffs, unless it’s clear that one kicker has enough leg strength and accuracy to handle both positions. Genyk would prefer Gaglianone to handle one of the positions, but added he is talented enough to do both should he separate himself in each category.“It’s going to be a competitive situation,” said Genyk.
During media day, Gaglianone said the turf inside the stadium was so perfect and to his liking that any missed kick will be his fault and nobody else’s. He also felt that accuracy would be the big determining factor in who gets to handle the job week one against LSU.
In his first chance to compete, Gaglianone had nothing to complain about.
“I feel like I have been doing a great job under the circumstances, like stepping up when they need me,” said Gaglianone. “It’s about taking baby steps and trying to grow into the program. All the other guys have been pretty good with me, so it’s going to be nice competition. It’s going to be a pretty good camp all around, learning the ropes, trying to do the right things and maybe get one of the starting jobs.”