Kicking situation still murky for UW
TEMPE, ARIZ.—As he promised, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen turned up the heat during practice this week.
And that was before UW landed at Phoenix Skyharbor International Airport, where the temperature hovered around the 100-degree mark Thursday.
After starter Kyle French missed an extra-point attempt against Tennessee Tech and backup Jack Russell missed a 31-yard field-goal attempt, Andersen said the kickers would be subjected to more game-like situations in practice.
The result: UW might use both kickers on field-goal attempts when it faces host Arizona State at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I spent a little time with them the last two days,” Andersen said Thursday night after the team went through a light workout at an area high school. “They both really kicked the ball well. It just came off their leg well. It sounded good.
“We kicked thirty-some balls and we only missed one and we took them all the way back to the 30-yard line.
“We're just trying to get ourselves in a good spot.”
French has hit the ball well on kickoffs, with a 64.5-yard average and four touchbacks on 14 kickoffs. It appears he will retain that duty.
“If it gets a little bit deeper it will definitely be Kyle,” Andersen said when asked about field-goal attempts. “A little closer and we might go with Jack.”
Watt's status uncertain
UW might be without fullback Derek Watt for the second consecutive game. Watt missed the Tennessee Tech game after suffering a strained left hamstring in the opener.
The redshirt sophomore did limited work in practice this week.
“He's got a shot,” Andersen said, who doesn't want to see Watt aggravate the injury and miss the Big Ten opener next week against visiting Purdue. “It is never a perfect world. We've got to feel pretty confident and I just rely on the trainers in that situation.”
Derek Straus is set to fill in for Watt again this week. Straus didn't start against Tennessee Tech but caught three passes for 10 yards and a touchdown.
However, UW predominantly went with multiple tight ends rather than a fullback.
Tight ends coach Jeff Genyk said that would be an option again this week.
“We probably had 125 tight-end snaps in the game,” he said. “We'll continue to be multiple. We'll continue to grow the tight end position.”
Tanner McEvoy, who had been working at wide receiver and safety, will be limited to working on defense for the next month-plus because of persistent wrist problem.
“Because of the splint he is going to have on for the next six weeks it will be at safety,” Andersen said. “It will be on for at least a month.
“But he got some good reps (at safety) this week.”
UW has byes Oct. 5 and Oct. 26, which means McEvoy, who played wide receiver in the opener but did not play last week, will have additional time to recover. UW has five regular-season games after the Oct. 26 bye.
“Hopefully if he is going to make a run this season,” Andersen said, “that's when it is going to be.”
Rested and ready
Andersen sounded optimistic that his players are ready to face an Arizona State team hoping to move into the top 25 of both polls.
“I think we had a good week of prep,” he said. “They'll be ready to go. It is a good vibe. We know we're going to have to play well.
“This is a great time of the year to have to do that. It is a great test as we move from our first two games to a real quality opponent and then into the Big Ten.
“It is kind of the perfect script for preseason.”
Freshman Joe Ferguson, a reserve safety who made his debut last week on the kickoff-coverage unit, might not play this week.
Ferguson, the grandson of UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, is slowed by a thigh problem.
“There is swelling,” Andersen said. “If he can run, he will play. If not, he won't. There's nothing structurally wrong.
“It is just a matter of getting the swelling down.”