"We want him to make good decisions, we don't need him to be an all-star," UW head coach Bret Bielema said after releasing his team's two-deep depth chart Wednesday. "We need him to make the plays that are out there and make the right throws."
Junior Dustin Sherer is listed as Sherer's backup, having edged out sophomore Scott Tolzien and freshman James Stallons, but Bielema said the top reserve role remains up for grabs, at least until Saturday.
"Obviously we listed the two-deep, but really Dustin Sherer, Scott Tolzien and James Stallons are in a competition mode even as we speak," Bielema said. "They were right there, neck-and-neck all the way through. … If we had to play a game tomorrow, Dustin would be the guy based on experience."
While having been in the program a year longer than Tolzien and two more than Stallons gives Sherer an edge in that regard, his game experience is very minimal: three games, three pass attempts, no completions.
One mild surprise from the depth chart comes at wide receiver. For the receiver spot opposite David Gilreath, Maurice Moore and Kyle Jefferson are listed as an either/or option. As a true freshman a year ago, Jefferson started six games for the Badgers after injuries to starters Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard. This fall, however, Jefferson has struggled with dropped passes.
"Kyle and [Moore] have been neck-and-neck, we just listed Mo ahead because he had a more productive (camp) numbers-wise," Bielema said. "Every practice, every scrimmage Mo's showed up. That's where he's at.
"Kyle needs to be consistent with catching the football. That needs to be a big thing with him."
Not much is certain at the cornerback position at this point except that Mario Goins will likely start at left cornerback. After that, Aaron Henry (unlikely to play the first two weeks while recovering from his second knee surgery in nine months) and freshman Anthony Fenelus are an either/or option to back up Goins. At the other corner, Allen Langford and Niles Brinkley are in a tight battle for the starting spot.
"What we've done is basically been rotating those three guys (Goins, Langford and Brinkley) with the ones," Bielema said.
After starting at middle linebacker for most of last season, Elijah Hodge is not on the two-deep depth chart. Jaevery McFadden is the first-string mike and is backed up by Culmer St. Jean.
"Jaevery's been pretty productive," Bielema said. "He got his hands on four balls yesterday and I know he got his hands on three today, so he's really been productive on pass coverage."
What coaches like about McFadden in the middle is he does some of his best work in space. That is an essential skill when facing teams that like to spread the field, a tactic that burned the Badgers often last year.
While punter Brad Nortman sewed up the punting job early during fall camp, who handles kickoffs and field goals — Matt Fischer or Philip Welch — is still anyone's guess.
"Everyday, they kind of go back and forth," Bielema said.
That neither one has distinguished himself leaves the door open for a possible kicking platoon.
"I think if we had to run a kickoff right now, Matt Fischer would be the guy. To be quite honest, if we were kicking a field goal, probably inside of 15 (yards) I might go with "Fish," outside of 15 I'd probably go with Philip."
O Captain, My Captain
"What I appreciate about Mike and "Urbie" and them is … they just show up and give you the same thing everyday."
"One thing I liked was there's a lot of guys who felt there are leadership qualities out there," Bielema said. "Any time you've got 11, 12 senior starters and you've only got four captains, there's a lot of guys who still have an impact on this team and that's going to show up over time."