Wisconsin Badgers fans likely don’t need a reminder of just how important special teams play can be after recent years. A once solid kicking game went south, but the arrival of a pudgy Brazilian kicker with some flair made things all better last year.
As we enter our final preview heading in to the kick off of fall camp on Monday, let’s also remember that special teams can be the difference between winning and losing. Will this group have what it takes to make it a complete team?
Let’s take a look at the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers special teams.
What We Know: Rafael Gaglianone (it only took half a season to get the spelling and pronunciation down without having to look either up, lol) is a star in the making. Not only is he a rather large kicker, but he’s got style and confidence like UW fans haven’t seen from a kicker since maybe the Pat O’Dea era.
He also happens to be able to back up any of the talk or dancing he does too. Last season Gaglianone finished second in the Big Ten, converting on 19 of 22 field goal attempts. None was bigger than the game winner he hit in the Outback Bowl victory over Auburn.
Perhaps most importantly, Gaglianone was a perfect 10 of 10 on field goals in the month of November. Kicking in what are easily the harshest conditions of the season is hugely important to any kicker at UW, and Gaglianone looked just fine in that month.
What We Need to Find Out: Is Drew Meyer Up to the Challenge?
As great as the place kicking game has become, the punting game has gone in the opposite direction. Last season Drew Meyer was downright awful, to the point that backup quarterback Bart Houston was brought in to kick in certain circumstances.
Meyer finished last season averaging 37.4 yards per punt, putting him last in the Big Ten in that category (among eligible players). That can’t happen this season with all the change going on and the teams UW will face.
Is Meyer up to getting better and becoming a useful weapon for the Badgers, or will fall camp show that it may be time to give the job to someone else? That someone else could be redshirt freshman P.J. Roskowski, but only if he finds a way to wow the coaching staff with a scholarship punter coming on board next season.
Player to Watch: George Rushing, KR/PR
George Rushing could have a major role to play with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2015, and part of that could be as a kick and punt returner. There is a major void in the return game with Kenzel Doe off to training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rushing appears first in line to receive punts and kicks, but he’ll get plenty of competition from incoming freshmen to fill that role.
Look for Rushing’s ability as a returner to be a potential game-changer, but he needs to first show consistency.