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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Badgers football: True freshmen in play

Aug 31, 2014 -- 1:50pm
Photo/Getty Images
Safety Lubern Figaro (31) was one of six true freshmen to play for Wisconsin.
 
HOUSTON - The University of Wisconsin ended up play six true freshmen in Saturday night’s 28-24 loss to LSU.
 
Two started – safety Lubern Figaro and wide receiver George Rushing.
 
Figaro made one tackle and was at least partially responsible for the 80-yard touchdown throw from Anthony Jennings to Travin Dural in the first quarter. Though sophomore Sojourn Shelton was in coverage, it appeared that Figaro was supposed to help over the top and got sucked too far into the play and couldn’t recover.
 
“I wouldn’t even throw it on Lubern (Figaro),” Shelton said. “He’s a freshman and did tremendous today. And that’s what comes with being a freshman and playing in a big game, especially like this.
“I look at my freshman year, and I got to open up with a vanilla team (Massachusetts). He opened up with LSU.
 
“I take full responsibility for that touchdown. You put it behind you, continue to keep playing and just play hard.”
 
In the fourth quarter, Figaro was replaced by senior Peniel Jean.
 
Rushing was the target of two of McEvoy’s passes but was unable to come down with either one.
 
The other two true freshmen receivers, Natrell Jamerson and Krenwick Sanders, did not play.
 
One of the true bright spots of the game for Wisconsin was in the kicking game. UW coach Gary Andersen called on Rafael Gaglianone on the Badgers second drive of the game and he delivered, hitting from 51 yards out – tied for the eighth longest kick in school history.
 
“It definitely felt good,” the Brazilian native said. “I was anxious to perform and do the right things.”
 
Injuries to nose guard Warren Herring and defensive end Konrad Zagzebski led to Conor Sheehy seeing some time in the fourth quarter. He recorded one assisted tackle.
 
Inside linebacker D’Cota Dixon and safety Austin Hudson played on the kickoff unit.
 
“I know they learned a lot, and I hope they can come back and recover quickly and get themselves in a spot to be ready to go,” Andersen said of the young players. “There are some good things. This will be a tremendous tape for us to look at and evaluate, and we will see how we can move forward.
 
“It is a step in the right direction, I suppose, as getting them reps, but the outcome is not what we were looking for.”

Badgers football: Zagzebski, Herring injured in loss

Aug 31, 2014 -- 3:25am
Photo/Getty Images
 
HOUSTON - The University of Wisconsin lost their season opener for the first time since 1997 but may have suffered some even bigger losses in personnel.
 
Senior defensive end Konrad Zagzebski was taken off the field on a stretcher in the first quarter of UW’s 28-24 loss to LSU after jamming his helmet into the side of Kenny Hilliard. The running back then landed on Zagzebski, who was down for several minutes.
 
He gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he was being taken off the field. And UW’s Twitter account later tweeted he would be flying home with them.
 
UW’s defense took another hit later on, losing nose guard Warren Herring to apparent right knee injury. The senior was helped off the field after getting his leg rolled up on. Herring was later seen with crutches and a large wrap on his right leg.
 
The presence of both guys was missed.
 
“Even if they aren’t in the game, they’ll be watching what’s going on and they can let the younger guys know what’s happening and how to combat that,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. We just missed their leadership on the interior d-line. Those young guys stepped up and played great, but once you have that momentum, their defense was rolling, their offense was rolling, it’s a hard thing to stop.”
 
Several other players suffered injuries, though exactly what the injury was and the severity is unknown.
 
Punter Drew Meyer was limping following a pair of punts in the fourth quarter. Fullback Derek Watt was wearing a boot on his right foot as he left the locker room last night. And backup left tackle Walker Williams did not dress due to a left leg injury.

Badgers football: Report: Jennings to start for LSU at QB

Aug 29, 2014 -- 5:32pm
Photo/USATSI
Sophomore Anthony Jennings will be LSU's starting quarterback against Wisconsin on Saturday night.
 
HOUSTON, Texas - LSU will have the more experienced quarterback under center when they matchup with the University of Wisconsin tomorrow night but not by much.
 
As first reported by NOLA.com, Tigers’ coach Les Miles will use sophomore Anthony Jennings as his starter in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium.
 
Jennings has started one game as opposed to the expected starter for the Badgers, junior Tanner McEvoy, who started three games at safety in 2013 but has never played quarterback at the Division I level.
 
Last year, the 6-foot-2, 216-pound, Jennings came into the final regular season game against Arkansas following an injury to Zach Mettenberger. Trailing by three with just 3:04 left in the game, Jennings led an 8-play, 99-yard drive to win the game.
 
His lone career start came in a 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
 
The decision to start Jennings wasn't unexpected. He and true freshman Brandon Harris will split time at the quarterback spot and are very similar players, both with the ability to extend plays with their legs.
 
Other LSU news:
 
A couple notable names did not travel with LSU to Houston for the game.
 
Sophomore Rashard Robinson, who started a pair of games last year, is reportedly suspended. He had been working with the second-team defense in camp but that was likely due to the coaches knowing he wasn’t going to be able to play. Robinson was expected to team with sophomore Tre’Davious White to form one of the better cornerback duos in the country.
 
Junior Jalen Collins will reportedly start opposite White on Saturday night.
 
Also, true freshman Malachi Dupre suffered an ankle injury in practice this week and won’t be able to go for the Tigers. Dupre, a New Orleans native, was one of the top wide receivers in the class of 2014.
 
LSU has just one wide receiver on their roster that caught more than one pass last year.

Badgers football: Team travels to Houston

Aug 29, 2014 -- 12:05am
Photo/ESPN Wisconsin
 
HOUSTON, Texas - The University of Wisconsin practiced one final time in Madison before heading south on Thursday. They arrived in Houston in the early afternoon, a little more than 48 hours before they’ll face LSU in the Texas Advocare Kickoff on Saturday night.
 
Players and coaches documented their travels via social media.
 

Badgers football: Landisch ready, position changes & a scholarship for a walk-on

Aug 27, 2014 -- 10:13pm
Photo/ESPN Wisconsin
 
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin will head into their season opener against LSU on Saturday night as healthy as they could of hoped. And that includes at the inside linebacker spot, as senior Derek Landisch is full-speed following a hamstring injury that knocked him out of action midway through the second week of fall camp.
 
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Landisch said following practice on Wednesday. “I’ve worked my tail off in the rehab room to get back out here, and I’m definitely excited to play versus LSU.”
 
It’s a matchup of Top 15 teams in the country and his teammates are excited he’ll be out there, too.
 
“He’s a born leader,” senior Marcus Trotter said. “He’s a very quiet kid but once he gets in his shoulder pads and helmet he’s a different guy. Real serious. He leads by example.”
 
Landisch said he started doing a little bit of on-field work last Saturday. UW took Sunday off and each day since the Nashotah native has been building up his workload to the point that he’s back to full participation.
 
“I’m thankful for that,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “(When) he is at his best, which I would say he’s right there, he’s one of our most productive players. He’s really played well. The defense has a different feel when he’s in there.”
 
There was an initial scare that the injury would keep Landisch – UW’s most experienced player on defense – off the field for the opener in Houston but the Hartland Arrowhead alum tried to not to even consider the possibility.
 
“That kind of creeps in your mind but I’ve always tried to stay positive and I knew that pouting or even being down on myself wouldn’t help my recovery,” he said. “I just took it a day at a time and really didn’t think about the past or the future, and just tried to get back out there with my teammates.”
 
Musical chairs
 
When Landisch got injured, it resulted in a variety of moves in the linebacker corps. Sophomore Leon Jacobs moved from the ‘F’ or field outside linebacker spot to inside linebacker, while sophomore Jack Cichy moved to the ‘F’ backer from the ‘B’ or boundary outside linebacker spot. With Landisch back, and a now healthy Vince Biegel (concussion), everyone reverted to their pre-injury positions and their spots on the depth chart.
 
The move also meant that the fourth inside linebacker – behind Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Michael Trotter – will be true freshman D’Cota Dixon.
 
“D’Cota is in sub-packages, whether it’s our three-man or four-man front,” Aranda said of the 5-foot-10, 206-pound Dixon. “I’m comfortable with D’Cota being a fourth guy who’s going to get some reps. I think the plan would be they’ve got to be able to knock us down from our (first) three to get to D’Cota, but he’s shown the ability to come in and make plays. We’re confident with that group.”
 
Dixon was a corner in high school, but is physical enough that the coaches and his Big Brother, Landisch, feel he’ll be ready if called upon against LSU in passing situations.
 
“I think he’s ready,” Landisch said. “I’ve been telling him all week, ‘You’re just a couple plays away from getting in the game, so make sure you know what you’re doing, because you never know when you’re going to get that opportunity.’ You always want to be prepared, so he’s been watching a lot of film, always asking questions on the sideline, which is a good thing.”
 
Senior goes on scholarship
 
A lot of attention, and rightly so, was given to the video showing walk-on long snapper Connor Udelhoven being surprised during a team meeting and getting put on scholarship. Another walk-on joined him on scholarship this week.
 
Senior Ben Ruechel was told he wouldn’t have to pay for his final year and it left the inside linebacker speechless, according to his teammates.
 
“He came up to me, and I could tell something was either wrong or something (else),” Landisch said. “He could barely speak.”
 
Ruechel has never stepped on the field for Wisconsin, but it’s players like the Oconto native that get the rest of the team ready for their opponent that particular week.
 
“I couldn’t describe it, how happy I was for Ben,” Landisch said. “It kind of felt like I got put on scholarship when Ben got put on scholarship.
 
“To watch him develop from the four years that I’ve been here. Ben never complains. Never wonders why he’s not on scholarship. None of that. He’s so selfless. He’ll do scout, if you ask him to do scout. He’ll be with the first-team, if you ask him to be with the first-team. He’s a very smart player.
 
“When Ben got that scholarship, everyone was so happy. All the inside linebackers hugged him and congratulated him. That’s a big moment for Ben.”

Badgers football: The "other" side: LSU - Tuesday

Aug 26, 2014 -- 11:17pm
 
MADISON - Only four days remain before No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 13 LSU kick the season off in Houston on Saturday.
 
Our daily look at what the “other” side is writing and saying:
 
Ross Dellenger at The Advocate talked with LSU’s offensive line about the advantage they have in experience over UW’s defensive line.
 
Over at NOLA.com, Jim Kleinpeter held a chat with readers, including telling them that this Badgers team isn’t the slow, plodding group that some may expect.
 
Kleinpeter also has a story where he writes about the Wisconsin connection that LSU coach Les Miles and starting center, Ethan Pocic, share.
 
David Ching of ESPN.com lays out the game plan LSU should use to open the season with a win over Wisconsin.
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