Records in sight, Williams eyes TDs

UW receiver Brandon Williams has enjoyed another strong campaign – without gracing the end zone

TAMPA, Fla. — Brandon Williams is going to set a record soon. He may shatter a very prestigious mark next year. But what he could really use is a chance to find the end zone. A little further down the road, and perhaps with touchdowns on his mind, he wants to add another role to his repertoire.

Wisconsin's multifaceted junior receiver leads his team in catches (39) and receiving yards (461). He also dabbled at cornerback last season and he is on the verge of setting the school's all-time mark for career kick return yards. But the 5-foot-11, 175-pound St. Louis native would love to try his hand as a punt returner in 2005.

"I've been waiting to do that for a long time but since we have All-American Jimmy Leonhard, you know, I've got to wait my turn," Williams said.

Sure, Williams would be fine holding onto the kick return duties as well. "But I really would like to do punt return," he said.

Williams is the type of player who would never miss a snap if the Badgers let him. But doubling as a situational corner for a few games last season led to a leg ailment that required offseason surgery. Williams sat out spring practices and did not resume returning kicks full time until the sixth game of this season.

"I really like doing the kick returning," Williams said. "I feel that it gets me into the flow of the game, early in the game."

Call it coincidental, but soon after recouping his return role, Williams' production took off. He caught seven passes for 84 yards in game seven versus Purdue and tallied 6 for 70 and 5 for 87 in the Badgers' next two games.

Conspicuously absent from that streak — and from any game this season — is a single solitary touchdown. Williams moves the chains — he also ran six times for 56 yards this year — but he has been sorely lacking points.

"I've been waiting almost 365 days now to get into the end zone," Williams said. "I don't know what's going on."

It has actually been more than a year since Williams' last touchdown. He scored just one last season, on Oct. 4, 2003 at Penn State. By comparison, Leonhard, Wisconsin's standout free safety, has three touchdowns in that span, two on punt returns last season and one on a blocked field goal recovery this year.

"Hopefully we can make a change, get a couple touchdowns," Williams said. "That will be pretty cool."

It is not that Williams has lacked for chances. After its top receiver started slowly, with just five catches in the first three games of the season, the Badgers made a conscientious effort to get him opportunities.

"We just felt like we had to find a way to get the ball in his hands a little bit more," receivers coach Henry Mason said. "He needs 6-10 touches in a game."

Touches have not been the problem. Williams is one game from leading the Badgers in receptions for two of the past three seasons. The Badgers' next leading receiver this season has caught 16 fewer of quarterback John Stocco's passes. Earlier this year Williams very quietly passed Al Toon for No. 2 on UW's all-time receptions list. His 140 career catches are just 35 behind Lee Evans' school mark.

Williams, though, has just four career touchdowns. The Badgers typically use Williams on shorter routes and rarely call his number in the red zone. He is averaging just 11.8 yards per catch this year.

"When we get down in the red zone I'm going to holler at Stoc, give him a couple dollars and say, ‘hey, throw me the ball on the next play in the red zone man. Don't worry about it, I'm going to go get it,'" Williams said with a facetious grin.

Whether or not Williams finally gets into the end zone, he will almost certainly set the Badgers' career kick return mark early in Wisconsin's Jan. 1 Outback Bowl matchup with Georgia. With 1,703 career yards, Williams needs just six more to break Nick Davis' career mark.

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