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September 4, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
Welcome back to my 2013 football mailbag! I'll answer your questions every week from the Badger's Den and take questions over Twitter and through plain old email, so if you have a question you'd like me to feature go right ahead and send them in.
Today we'll take questions from the Badger's Den, our exclusive message board for BadgerBlitz.com subscribers.
BadgerBlitz.com member VHawks2211 writes: We are only 1 week in and the opponent was meh, but who are your top 5 players who are going to improve the most over the course of the season? Top 5 players who are going to make the biggest impact on this years success?
If I could actually predict the future I'd probably be off in a casino somewhere, but I do have a few players in mind that will not only take a few strides, but also help the Badgers win this season. Sojourn Shelton is one of them. He's a really talented football player, and I think getting him so much game experience this early in his career is going to pay dividends for the Badgers down the road. The Badgers are looking to develop more depth in the secondary, and this is a great way to do that for future seasons.
I also think Joel Stave, Joe Schobert, Vince Biegel and Dan Voltz are primed to make some improvements and help the Badgers this season. Stave is an obvious answer just because of how much playing time we expect him to get, but he was looking good under center midway through last season, and I think the offense is similar enough to what the Badgers are used to where he'll catch on quickly and continue his development. Schobert and Biegel will both see the field at outside linebacker this season, and the Badgers will be grateful for it at this time next year. They'll be two of the top candidates to start at both the "F" and the "B" spots, and instinctive guys like them need to get on the field to really improve. They might not get a ton of reps, but they'll all add up in the end.
As for Voltz, I thought he was playing pretty well for a redshirt freshman at center. He had some well-documented snap issues during his first semester on campus in the spring of 2012, but he was the unquestioned No. 1 option at center for spring and fall camp until he pulled that hamstring. He already took some game reps in week one, and I expect him to finish the season as the "starting" center, even though the Badgers will rotate a lot of guys. They're looking to build more depth at that spot, and Voltz is good enough where they'll probably reshuffled one or two guys to make room for him if he picks up where he left off.
BadgerBlitz.com member rjlurie writes: What is being done to work with our place kickers on consistency and poise under pressure?
This is an interesting question- I'll talk to Jeff Genyk about it, since he handles the kickers for the coaching staff. It's certainly no secret that the Badgers have struggled with field goals over the past few seasons, really since after Philip Welch left after the 2011 season. As far as I know the Badgers haven't changed anything specifically about how they practice field goals, but I do think getting Jack Russell back will help their cause. Russell was kicking well at the end of camp, but at the same time he was really inconsistent during spring ball. At the end of the day the team has to work with what they have. There's only so much you can tell a kicker before you have to just let him go out there and try to put the ball through the uprights.
BadgerBlitz.com member rjlurie writes: What true freshmen played already on Saturday and will not be redshirted?
Obviously Shelton and Corey Clement both saw time for the Badgers against UMass, but a few other young players got in to the game as well. Cornerback Jakarrie Washington saw time on special teams, and Leon Jacobs made a tackle on the kickoff coverage team.
Other than that, I do expect Rob Wheelwright to see some time this season. He didn't get in to the game against UMass, but the Badgers are thin enough at wide receiver where they'll work him in to their plans eventually. My guess is that he'll play with the second team offense, though. Gary Andersen also said that they'll activate Austin Ramesh during the game this week at fullback, with Derek Watt still coming back from a left hamstring injury. The Badgers aren't really sure how much time Watt will miss, but the fact that they're activating Ramesh suggests to me that they aren't planning on having him against Tennessee Tech.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.