Jesse Temple's Oct. 16 Badgers mailbag
Following a bye week, we're back for more mailbag. This week, we discuss the recruitment of Joe Mixon and Damien Mama, the Badgers' kicking situation, facilities upgrades and more.
If you have a Badgers football question for the mailbag, we'll post a submission link following Saturday's game against Illinois and answer your questions next Wednesday.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week. Let's get to it:
Q: The red helmets look cool. Is this a onetime thing??? Or just for homecoming?-- F. Kruger, Hayward, WI
A: This actually marked the second time Wisconsin went with the red helmets this season. The Badgers also donned red against Tennessee Tech back on Sept. 7.
Andersen allows his 27-player leadership council to vote on which uniforms Wisconsin will wear in certain games. And from his comments after the Northwestern game, this probably isn't the last time we'll see a different color combination.
"I just felt it was time," Andersen said. "They want to break out the all red eventually, but I felt for homecoming, the red was about where we needed to go with the helmet and move on from there.
"They like the helmet. They like the white helmet. Kids like change. They all do. They all want something new and fancy, whatever it may be. We'll just keep going through it.
"They'd wear a pink one next week and a black one that next week, if we'd let them. We've got the two. We'll mix them up."
Q: What are the chances we land Mixon and or Mama?-- Scott Page (via Twitter)
A: I'd say the chances appear pretty good at this point that Wisconsin lands at least one of these players, if not both. Joe Mixon is a five-star running back with more than 40 scholarship offers, but he narrowed down his list to a final five on his Twitter account in August. Recently on his Twitter account, he has retweeted stories that said he's come up with a final two of Wisconsin and Oklahoma. If that's true, then the Badgers have at least a 50-50 chance of landing him.
Damien Mama, meanwhile, is the No. 1-ranked offensive guard in the country. And if you're an offensive lineman trying to make it to the NFL, why wouldn't you pick Wisconsin?
Both players certainly came to the right game. It was homecoming, and Wisconsin absolutely thrashed a nationally ranked opponent in a loud environment. Plus, the Badgers ran the ball well and blocked well up front. If that isn't enough to convince a recruit to come to Wisconsin, I don't know what is.
Q: I know it's early, but from what you've seen, what are Gary Andersen's strengths as a head coach compared to what Bret Bielema's were? (And P.S.: Did you see video of Bielema falling recently as the Arkansas Razorbacks walked into the stadium for a game?)-- K.B., Minneapolis
A: For starters, yes, I did see the video. I know Badgers fans around the country had a good laugh at the expense of their former coach. I wonder if there will ever be a point when fans will let go of the way Bielema left. My sense is it won't happen any time soon.
As for Andersen's strengths as a head coach, he does a good job of staying even keeled, even after Wisconsin loses a game. He is very clear with his players about what he expects, and because he doesn't blow smoke at them, they seem to respond well.
One thing I've noticed in practice is that practice ends when it is supposed to during the season so players can get out, study film, get treatment and move on with their days. I can recall days under Bielema's tenure when practice would drag on long after the initial end time while reporters waited to interview players. If nothing else, short, more crisp practices help keep players fresher during the grind of a long season.
Q: Could you give an update on young UW up & comers? Have to replace whole front 7 next year. Any young guys flash in practice/workouts?-- Peter D., Wisconsin
A: If you're looking for front seven guys, two who have really popped out are sophomore Joe Schobert and redshirt freshman Vince Biegel. Schobert has 12 tackles this season and Biegel has nine, including two sacks. Both of those guys are going to be a force for Wisconsin in years to come. And to think Schobert nearly went to North Dakota to play football at the FCS level.
In the secondary, true freshman cornerback Jakkarrie Washington and redshirt freshman safety Nate Hammon haven't been heard from much -- Hammon has six tackles and Washington five. But the fact the coaching staff feels comfortable enough to put those young players on the field in limited action says something about their future.
Q: Is Gary Andersen recruiting ANY kickers? Are the ones UW has even on scholarship? The Badgers kicking game is a disgrace for a major college program. UW needs to step it up!!-- (anonymous), Madison
A: If I'm not mistaken, Kyle French is the only kicker on scholarship at Wisconsin right now. Jack Russell and Andrew Endicott are both walk-ons. And yes, I'd have to imagine Wisconsin's coaching staff is doing everything it can to secure a commitment from a top-level high school kicker moving forward.
French has been inconsistent for the past two years, and his missed 38-yard field goal against Northwestern may have cost him the starting job for good this season. Of course, that depends on the performance of Russell, who is 0-for-3 in his career on field goal tries.
When you consider the success of other college kickers from Wisconsin -- Northwestern's Jeff Budzien (Hartland, Wis.) and Texas A&M's Josh Lambo (Middleton, Wis.) come to mind -- it makes you wonder how the previous coaching staff could whiff so badly. This is clearly one area Wisconsin needs to improve, especially if it wants to have an advantage in close Big Ten games.
Q: Not too early to talk hoops I hope. Give me some predictions. Gimme gimme gimme.-- Jacob Berg, Appleton
A: You want a prediction? Wisconsin finishes in the top four in the Big Ten and reaches the NCAA tournament for a 16th consecutive season. It's almost as dependable as the sun setting in the west.
The season hasn't started, obviously, but Sam Dekker is going to be this team's leading scorer. He is too versatile and valuable not to play at least 30 or 32 minutes. And he has added muscle to play more inside while maintaining that great outside shot.
I'd expect Wisconsin to use more three-guard lineups that include Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser, but that could depend on matchups from game to game. Finally, Nigel Hayes is going to be a key contributor as a freshman. Players raved about his physicality during the team's media day last week.
Q: Are the Badgers due for any facility upgrades? Not anything Oregon-like, but it almost seems if you aren't constantly upgrading, you are falling behind.-- Greg S., Hopkins, MN
A: Actually, Wisconsin has been in the process of making facilities upgrades for more than a year-and-a-half. The difference is that most of the renovations have been focused specifically on student-athletes rather than fans, so many don't know what has taken place.
Wisconsin spent $86 million as part of a three-phase project to build a Student Athlete Performance Center. The idea was to create a hub around the stadium that allowed student-athletes to study and train together.
Plans included adding a three-story academic and strength training center on the north end of the stadium. The project also included renovations to the lower level of the McClain Athletic Facility, an indoor training space built in 1986 that sits northeast of Camp Randall Stadium. It held locker rooms and a strength-training facility, as well as a student-athlete academic center known as the Fetzer Center.
The expanded Fetzer Center for academic support is a 32,000-square foot space located beneath the scoreboard on the north end of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin's new weight room is 17,000 square feet, complete with a nutrition bar and cardio area.
The Badgers' last weight room was 7,824 square feet. For comparison's sake, Penn State's weight room is 13,000 square feet and Nebraska's is 18,700 square feet.
Other state-of-the-art upgrades include a renovated and expanded team football suite, including player and coach locker rooms, team lounge, equipment room and hot/cold recovery pools. Locker space will also be given to the men's and women's soccer teams as well as men's and women's track and cross country, among others.
The project is being paid for from money generated by the athletic department. That means no tax-payer dollars or student fees go toward the project. The renovations should help Wisconsin keep pace with other top-level Division I programs in the facilities race.
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