Notes: Needing a Special Teams Kick

Resting Philip Welch throughout the bye week in hopes of restoring his health and his confidence, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema hopes the kicking game, and a change in the return game, gives the Badgers a needed lift Saturday against Purdue.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

MADISON - Bret Bielema dare not try to get inside the head of any of his players, let alone Philip Welch.

If he would, it would be interesting to see what the Wisconsin head coach would find between the ears of his beleaguered sophomore kicker.

A year after his field goal total (20-of-24) and his field goal percentage (.833) were the third-best mark in UW single season history, Welch has lost his accuracy, and parts of his confidence.

Battling what Bielema calls a groin injury for parts of the season, Welch is 8-of-14 in his field goal attempts, missing six of his last nine attempts. In an effort to heal Welch's injury, Bielema sat Welch for the majority of the week in hopes of healing/fixing the problem.

"I know that Phil wants to have success," Bielema said. "He's had success, and it's something that's (bothering him). The limited kicking (knowledge) I have, I told him to aim for the left goal post and see if that can help out."

The Badgers may explore the option of limiting Welch to only field goals, especially since walk-on freshman Alec Lerner has performed admirably in practice.

"It just depends on how the pre-game looks," said Bielema.

Wisconsin has no shortage of kickers for the future, as Menomonee Falls senior Kyle French gave his verbal commitment to Bielema on Monday in hopes of coming on to campus in the fall and challenging for the starting job.

Generating Excitement

With the Badgers' pads on the shelf for the past two weeks, Wisconsin's players were in need of a little extra energy to help keep their minds focused on Purdue. Taking a similar page from last season's bye week, the Badgers went through virtually the same practice schedule, including Tuesday's huge emphasis on Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin.

"It brings a little energy to practice because those young guys like to fly around," Bielema said. "Guys that are usually simulating the looks of our opponent get out there and show there stuff. We ended every practice last week with it … and I enjoy it. We were working our twos and you see guys like Chris Borland, David Gilbert, a bunch of sophomore and freshmen running around, it gets you excited."

Return Dividends

With David Gilreath's foot issues hindering his performance on returns this season, the Badgers plan on experimenting with other options in hopes of generating a spark.

According to Bielema, junior Isaac Anderson will field the first kickoff and Gilreath will take the second one on Saturday.

"Hopefully, we only have one (return)," Bielema said.

Bielema also mentioned that Nick Toon might get an opportunity to return a kick. As of now, Gilreath remains the Badgers best punt return option, because he hasn't had a problem with ball security.

Gilreath ranks 89th in the country with a 21.7 kickoff return average, and only has a 3.6 punt return average with a long of seven. Wisconsin ranks 110th out of 120 Division 1 teams in kickoff return average (18.1) and 94th in punt return (6.0).

"Hopefully this week he can get a little mojo going," Bielema said.

Extra Points: With the exception of Mike Taylor, Bielema said the Badgers should have everybody at 100 percent … John Clay will start at running back Saturday …UW had a sit down meeting with sophomore Aaron Henry to show him that opponents are targeting him as a weakness in pass defense … Chris Borland will start ahead of Blake Sorensen in place of Taylor, but both will see time.

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