MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's depth chart is coming together as the team inches closer to the start of the regular season. Their first game against LSU is just over a week away, and head coach Gary Andersen broke down parts of his team's two-deep with reporters after practice on Thursday.
First of all, Andersen finally acknowledged the inevitable: true freshman kicker Rafael Gaglianone will open the season as the team's starting place kicker.
Gaglianone wowed coaches, media members and fans during fall camp with his range and accuracy, and seemed like the obvious choice for the job after the Badgers struggled for two seasons to find a consistent replacement for Phillip Welch. Sophomore kicker Andrew Endicott will handle kickoff duties, which leaves Jack Russell as the odd man out after Russell made just 9 of 15 field goals over the last two years.
Andersen also said that he and Dave Aranda are going to swap Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski between nose guard and defensive end more than they initially thought.
The Badgers had experimented with playing Herring at defensive end during the spring and at times during fall camp. But Andersen expressed concern at the time that their backup nose guards might not allow them to do that as often as they might want to.
And while Andersen has said that Arthur Goldberg has made strides since then, moving Zagzebski over to nose guard in a part time role suggests that the Badgers want to do everything they can to get Herring involved in the pass rush.
"I think [the move] gives Warren a great opportunity to be a playmaker at the defensive end spot in certain situations," Andersen said Thursday.
Andersen said that swapping Herring and Zagzebski won't be an "all the time thing," but that they will make the switch in certain packages and against certain teams. Either way, both Herring and Zagzebski are going to end up taking a lot of snaps in their senior seasons.
Moving over to the offensive side of the ball, Andersen also said that true freshman Taiwan Deal would be the team's third-string tailback if the season started today. Deal didn't win the job straight out of the gate like Corey Clement did last year, and fellow freshman Caleb Kinlaw looked good in limited action once he was able to get on to the field, but Andersen said Deal has made good progress over the last few days.
"Right now the number three spot would be Taiwan," Andersen said. "Taiwan has really gained some ground in the last three days. He's more confident and carries himself with more knowledge of the offense. Not perfect, but he's taking advantage of his reps."
To wrap things up, Andersen confirmed that redshirt sophomore safety Vonte Jackson has decided to retire after he suffered another setback to his surgically repaired knee early on in fall camp. Jackson never played in a game for the Badgers amid several injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament in both of his knees, but Andersen said he thinks moving on was in Jackson's best interest.
"It looks like Vonte is going to have to take a [medical scholarship], unfortunately," Andersen said. "But he's in a good spot. His family is on board. Everybody knows it's the best thing. I feel bad about it, but I feel good that he can move on in life."
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.