MADISON, Wis. — And so Wisconsin’s kicking situation has come to this: A linebacker, who has never attempted a field goal in his entire college career, is now the Badgers’ long-range kicker should the scenario arise in an actual game.
Yes, there is very little Wisconsin senior Chris Borland can’t do, it seems. But how well does he kick field goals? We may soon find out.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen confirmed that, if the Badgers find themselves in need of a deep kick — from 45 yards and beyond — it will be Borland who gets the call.
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“As crazy as that may seem,” Andersen said.
Jack Russell will take over field-goal duties for Kyle French this week when No. 25 Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1) travels to face Illinois (3-2, 0-1). Russell, however, hasn’t proven to be particularly reliable in his young career. The sophomore is 0 for 3 on field-goal attempts over the past two seasons and missed a 31-yard field goal off the right upright against Tennessee Tech last month.
He is replacing French, who has made 5-of-8 kicks this season but missed a 38-yard attempt wide left last week against Northwestern.
Over the years, Borland has often attempted field goals in practice. He once kicked three extra points as a freshman in 2009 against Hawaii and made all three attempts.
Andersen noted Borland hadn’t missed any field goal tries this week.
How many has he attempted?
“Two,” Andersen replied. “Two for two. Better than 0 for 2.”
Given the uncertainty — and perhaps lack of confidence — surrounding the kicking game, Andersen acknowledged again he might choose to go for it on fourth-and-short rather than attempt a longer field goal, depending on the situation.
Still, Borland — who leads the team with 56 tackles — will be his go-to kicker if the need occurs.
“He’s good at about anything he tries to do athletically it seems,” Andersen said. “We tried it a few weeks ago. He does a good job. So we worked a little bit more this week actually getting there, timing it up and giving him a little bit of coaching. Not too much coaching, though. We don’t want to take it out of him. So we’ll let him go.”
Andersen added Borland wouldn’t even need a change of cleats.
“He’s kicking in the same shoes,” Andersen said. “Probably could kick it barefoot, too, if he had to. Who knows?”
Hammond done: On Tuesday, Badgers wide receiver Chase Hammond announced on his Twitter account that he had decided to give up football because of multiple ankle surgeries.
“It’ll benefit me in the long run,” Hammond tweeted.
Hammond, a redshirt junior, appeared in 13 career games with two starts. He caught five passes for 50 yards in his career, all coming last season.
Andersen said he had discussions with Hammond for weeks leading up to the decision.
“He’s a young man that he’s really given it all to the university in my opinion,” Andersen said. “He’s worked hard. There just becomes a time where what you’re putting into it, you’re not getting any return.
“For him to focus on school, get himself in position to get graduated as soon as possible is the focus now. I completely agree with him. It’s hard to walk away for those kids, but sometimes it’s the best decision. In this case, I agree. We’ll still continue to talk. He’s a great kid.”
Good to go: Andersen said wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and cornerback Darius Hillary were cleared to play against Illinois.
Abbrederis sustained a head injury last week during the first quarter against Northwestern. He wore a green non-contact jersey during Tuesday’s practice but played at full speed. Hillary, meanwhile, was injured while making a tackle in the second half.
“He’s a little stiff maybe,” Andersen said of Hillary. “But really nothing more than normal game stiffness for him, so he’s ready to go.”