Endicott getting his kicks for Badgers
Thrust onto the Big Ten stage with no warning in Week 4 against Purdue, Wisconsin freshman Andrew Endicott has handled his assignment as well as anyone could have expected.
“Andrew Endicott has done a great job on kickoffs,” Jeff Genyk, UW's co-special teams coordinator, said after practice earlier this week. “For a true freshman to come in and take over that and to do an average to slightly above-average job, I feel good about that.”
So good that Genyk this week is giving Endicott the opportunity to battle sophomore Jack Russell for the job of handling field goals and extra points when UW (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) plays at Illinois (3-2, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Redshirt junior Kyle French held that job through UW's first six games, but a missed 32-yard attempt at Ohio State was costly. A missed 38-yard attempt last week against Northwestern led head coach Gary Andersen to declare Russell would handle field goals and extra points.
Russell, who missed a 31-yard field-goal attempt in Week 2 against Tennessee Tech and is 5 for 5 on extra-point attempts, may still win the job this week.
However, Genyk decided to see how Endicott would handle the one-on-one battle.
“He is going to get a fair shake along with Jack Russell,” said Genyk, adding UW would take only two kickers to Illinois. “They're both going to compete this week, and we'll see what happens.”
Russell, an all-state kicker as a senior at Waunakee High School, has made 19 of 20 extra-point attempts overall at UW, but he has yet to make a field goal in three tries.
Last season, he missed from 33 yards against Texas-El Paso and from 41 yards at Nebraska.
Endicott, a walk-on from Roseville, Calif., has handled 15 kickoffs at UW. His average of 61.2 yards per kickoff falls short of French's mark of 64.6 yards and he has only three touchbacks.
However, his hang time of (about 3.9 seconds) and ball placement have helped UW's coverage unit.
UW opponents are starting their drives, on average, at the 24-yard line after kickoffs. Safeties coach Bill Busch handles the kickoff-coverage unit.
“That is 2 yards better than I ever had at Cal,” Genyk said. “Coach Busch is doing an amazing job with that group.”
Endicott is set to handle kickoffs against the Illini. Sophomore √V'Angelo Bentley averages 32.1 yards per return, tied for the No. 5 mark in the nation.
Andersen acknowledged this week that the field-goal issues have begun to influence his thoughts on play-calling.
With punter Drew Meyer showing the ability to consistently put the ball inside the opponents' 20—he went 4 for 4 against Northwestern—Andersen appears more inclined to punt and play defense than attempt a long field goal.
“I think the way Drew punts the ball also helps us there,” Andersen said, “because if he can kick it down there and get it inside the 10-yard line consistently like he's done, it allows you to have second thoughts about a long field goal or maybe not going for it as much.
“And asking somebody to go 90 yards if the defense is playing well is very tough.”
However, Andersen didn't rule out the possibility of eschewing both a punt and a long field-goal attempt and rolling the dice on fourth and short.
“I like to think the kids can get a yard when they need it,” he said. “I would definitely be on the aggressive side of that.
“Not crazy aggressive, but aggressive.”
Genyk, who oversees the punters and kickers, is aggressively searching for a consistent kicker.
UW plans to sign a scholarship kicker for its 2014 freshman class. But this week the question is: Russell or Endicott?
“He came in the last week of camp and his field goals have gotten better,” Genyk said of Endicott. “I think what is impressive about him is that he was thrown into the kickoff duty off the sidelines and really has responded.”