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Badger Bits: Wisconsin releases initial depth chart

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Head coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff finalized the Badgers' first depth chart of 2012 on Monday.
Head coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff finalized the Badgers' first depth chart of 2012 on Monday.

UW officials provided fans with a first look at the 2012 Badgers' depth chart, revealing it to the public late Monday afternoon.

The biggest surprise comes out of special teams, where freshman kicker Jack Russell won the starting spot over Kyle French, who filled in for former Badger Philip Welch when an injury sidelined him early last season. French took most of the first-team reps through fall camp and seemed poised to win the job, but Russell apparently performed well enough late in two-a-days to secure the starting gig. Despite the change, French remains the Badgers' kickoff specialist and expect him to continue to challenge Russell for his former title (which appeared to be the case in Monday's practice).

Offensively, a couple changes and new names stand out from the initial depth chart.

Quarterback: Bret Bielema named Danny O'Brien as his opening day starter via Twitter yesterday, but Curt Phillips and Joel Stave are currently tied for the backup position. No surprise here. O'Brien is more consistent and more experienced than his competitors, so it was an easy choice for Bielema and his staff.

Fullback: Throughout spring and into the fall it appeared Sherard Cadogan would be Bradie Ewing's successor in the backfield. But after a switch from linebacker to fullback, Derek Watt — younger brother of former UW star J.J. Watt — is even on the depth chart with Cadogan. Wisconsin coaches gave Watt the decision of staying at linebacker or converting to tight end or fullback, earlier in fall camp. Since shifting to offense, Watt has impressed coaches and looked like a natural at his new position, so either Cadogan and Watt will split time or continue to battle for the full-time starting position.

Wide Receivers: This position group is full of youth, and outside of Jared Abbrederis, that remains true for the starting wideouts. After a very impressive camp, redshirt freshman Jordan Frederick officially is named UW's No. 2 option and sophomore Kenzel Doe will be O'Brien's third receiver on the depth chart. Unfortunately, juniors Jeff Duckworth and Manasseh Garner have failed to take the next step and assume more prominent roles in the offense, as they will backup Doe and Fredrick, respectfully.

Offensive Line: Things are finally clearing up at right guard where redshirt sophomore Kyle Costigan will start. Costigan is a converted defensive lineman who battled with redshirt senior Robert Burge through fall camp at right guard. Burge began camp as the frontrunner and took the majority of first-team reps before Costigan emerged and eventually won the job. True freshman Dan Voltz, who previously backed up center Travis Frederick, moves to right guard to play behind Costigan. The coaching staff has been so impressed by young Voltz, that Bielema said he's in a competition with Costigan to start at right guard. It would seem most logical for Burge to backup Costigan, but Burge is penciled in as the second-string right tackle behind Rob Havenstein. The juggling act with the backup lineman is probably just the coaching staff's best way to ensure depth at each position to prepare for injuries or subpar play.

Not as much worth noting on the defensive side, as the depth chart serves primarily as a confirmation of what we expected.

Defensive Line: Pat Muldoon is labeled as starter at both defensive end positions, next to David Gilbert and Brendan Kelly. Expect Gilbert and Kelly to be the starters, but Muldoon to receive plenty of playing time as the first man in the rotation.

Linebackers: As expected, Ethan Armstrong is named the third starting linebacker for Wisconsin. Armstrong returns after a couple injury riddled seasons and will be the Sam (strong side) linebacker.

Tuesday's Links:

Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down the Badgers' first depth chart of 2012. See what Tom Lea and the Adam Rittenberg had to say as well.

Does Michigan live up to the hype? When will Ohio State return to its days as a national title contender? Who will play for the B1G Title in Indy? Video: ESPN previews the Big Ten season.

Despite bringing in six new assistant coaches, Wisconsin is transitioning well to the new staff. A nice piece by Adam Rittenberg reveals how the Badgers do it.

BTN ranks the top five seasons from B1G athletes since the conception of the company. And Wisconsin is home to two of them.

SI's Andy Staples previews the Big Ten season, including each team's record, individual awards and an additional video preview.