MADISON -- It's no secret that Wisconsin has struggled through major kicking issues since last season.
Kyle French missed a 38-yard field goal against Northwestern last week, his third miss in eight tries on the year, and the Badgers have finally decided to give backup Jack Russell a crack at the place-kicking duties.
Another player, though, may also get an opportunity.
"Jack will kick in this game, and we'll see how it goes," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. "I'm fully, completely serious that Chris Borland is also in the mix. We'll see how that goes. If we're going to try a long one, it's probably going to be Chris Borland, as crazy as that may seem."
Borland, the Badgers' All-Big Ten middle linebacker, hasn't attempted a kick in a game since going 3-for-3 on extra points against Hawaii during his freshman year in 2009.
This week, Andersen said a potential Borland field goal attempt would probably come if the Badgers were attempting one from 45-plus yards away. Has Borland even made a field goal of that distance in practice?
"Every time," Andersen said. "Hasn't missed yet."
But how many has he actually attempted?
"2-for-2 is better than 0-for-2," Andersen said with a laugh.
The head coach did seem serious about Borland's availability as a kicker against Illinois, though. He even said the team has helped him work on his timing this week in practice.
"Not too much coaching, though," Andersen said. "We don't want to take it out of him. We'll let him go. ... He's kicking in the same shoes. He could probably kick it barefoot, too, if he had to."
In reality, Wisconsin will likely be more open to trying for a fourth-down conversion in manageable down-and-distance situations, and Andersen said he's liked what he's seen from Russell this week.
"(Russell's) done a good job. He's stepped up and he's ready to go," Andersen said. "We'll put him in that spot and see how he handles it.
"I feel pretty good about Jack kicking the ball about the same place we were trying them before. But we may go for it. It's just a feel thing. If I feel like it, we'll go for it. If I feel like we're going to kick it, we'll kick it. You've just got to make the call."
Running backs James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement could arguably be three of the five best offensive players on Wisconsin's roster. It makes sense that Andersen said he wants all three to share the field in certain situations.
The Badgers have run a Wildcat formation with Derek Watt, White and Clement on the field, but that formation could lead to forcing defenses to worry about all three of the team's talented backs.
"In some certain situations, yes, we definitely will get all three of those kids on the field as we move along," Andersen said. "We've just got to be able to snap the ball and get it started in a game, and that'll let us take the next step."
Once Wisconsin becomes more familiar with its Wildcat package, it could become a real weapon.
'A little mojo going in our direction'
Andersen said wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and cornerback Darius Hillary will play without limitations against Illinois.
It's the second straight week following their bye week that the Badgers enter a game healthy, and last week's 35-6 blowout of then-No. 19 Northwestern showed what a healthy roster can do for a Wisconsin team that now appears to be playing its best football.
"Momentum is, in my mind, preparation," Andersen said. "Momentum is being in the moment, playing hard, all the stuff that comes with that. I think these kids, they work hard, they take care of their business, it means a lot to them, and in my mind right now, we've got a little mojo going in our direction."
-- Andersen commented after Thursday's practice on Chase Hammond, who announced on Twitter earlier this week that he was giving up football after multiple ankle surgeries.
"We've had discussions ongoing for weeks and weeks and weeks, and he's a young man who's really given it all to the university," Andersen said. "In my opinion, he's worked hard. There just comes a time when what you're putting into it, you're just not getting any return, and for him to focus on school, get himself in position to get graduated as soon as possible is the focus now, and I completely agree with it. It's hard to walk away from those kids, but sometimes it's the best decision, and in this case, I agree. We'll still continue to talk. He's a great kid."
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- Kyle French forgoing senior season
- Hockey series preview: Wisconsin at Boston College/Boston University
- From the Other Side: The Champaign Room previews Wisconsin vs. Illinois
- World Junior A Challenge: Recruit Seamus Malone named to Team USA
- Opponent Watch: Nathan Scheelhaase and Illlinois are Bipolar and Terrifying Edition
- USA TODAY Coaches Poll: Wisconsin basketball begins season ranked No. 21