Quiet, unsung heroes are the people that seem to matter most, and junior Jack Russell is just that. Just as important as who starts under center, who catches the passes and who will sack the quarterback, Russell will most likely be the key to the Badgers this season. The Badgers have had struggles in the past with pulling out close games, and the one, two, or three point loses could all be eliminated with an experienced kicker.
Stats: Earned second letter, playing in nine games as Badgers' primary field-goal kicker ... converted all 34 PAT attempts, the third-most by a UW kicker that hit 100 percent of his PAT tries in a season … Went 9-for-13 on field goals … Made a career-best 48-yard try against Penn State.
Strengths: Russell earned the right to replace Kyle French midway through last season with his ability to make field goals consistently from within 40 yards. Russell went 8-for-10 on those kicks last year, which is key for the Badgers if they aren’t able to capitalize from an offensive perspective.
Weaknesses: Russell’s leg strength isn’t as strong as some of the other kickers on the roster, which could pose as an issue into the season.
Why he is where he is: Russell is in the top 20 because he could potentially help or hurt the Badgers with how consistent, or inconsistent, he could be. He is a valuable asset to the team and some fans don’t quite realize how critical his play is this season.
Overall: Russell has gained plenty of valuable experience in the 2013 season when his field goal percentage was just under 70 percent last season. With how much he has grown as a player, I feel that Russell will do just fine this upcoming season and that will give Coach Gary Andersen more confidence to go for longer attempts if Russell plays as well as he is slated to.
Up Next: A preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection by one publication, No.17 on our countdown is the middle of a two year run locking down his vital starting spot.
Note: This is not a list of the team's 30 best players or a series about past success, but rather a list of which players are the most critical to the team’s success in 2014. The list was created based on a player’s overall importance, impact on the field, the player’s position and expectations. True freshmen were not considered for this season.