First impressions are just that, an initial glance, in this case, a simple snapshot of all the toil and work that has brought Wisconsin's freshmen class to Madison's west side for this fall camp. While a complete picture of the group's skill and talent is impossible at this quick juncture, the class has succeeded in making a positive first impression.
"I was visiting with all of the coaches today and everybody was very pleased," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "They have a chance to be an exceptional group. It is a little early to make that statement because you still have to hit in football, that is what it is about. But they sure are athletic."
A number of Wisconsin's incoming freshmen stood out, particularly from an athletic standpoint. The Badgers plethora of talented receivers is well documented, and it appears that is not going to change any time soon. Each of the freshmen receivers has looked solid in practice the past two days, with Ernest Mason and Brandon Tobias in particular standing out. Fennimore, Wis. native Luke Swan was also very impressive with his athletic ability.
"I think we have an excellent group of receivers including the two walk-ons (Swan and Jonte Flowers)," Alvarez said.
The receivers, though, do not have a monopoly on the athletic ability of this class. Far from it. As Alvarez mentioned to the media in attendance after Thursday's practice, the athleticism player-to-player is what first jumps out about this group of players.
"I think they are very athletic," Alvarez said. "They certainly look the part. If you look at either line you would think you are looking at a mature varsity line, particularly they are really impressive."
It goes without saying that Wisconsin will have linemen with plenty of size. The Badgers freshmen linemen, though, appear uncommonly agile. Joe Thomas and Andrew Weininger in particular look the part at tackle. It does not seem quite appropriate for a player as large as Thomas to move as quickly as he does.
On the defensive line, it is startling how much Jamal Cooper reminds of Jonathan Welsh. They are both 6-4 and at 210 Cooper is about the same size Welsh was as a freshman. Cooper is exceptionally quick for a defensive linemen and he excelled throughout practice sessions.
Another player who has continually impressed is defensive back James Kamoku. He is listed at 6-2, 200, but he looks bigger and he moves like a much smaller man. He runs in a very compact, powerful fashion, as if always ready to uncoil and deliver a blow.
Other freshmen notes:
- Brandon Kelly lined up at outside linebacker and was solid throughout practice sessions.
- Tight end Kurt Ware deserves plaudits. Every time you look his way he is carrying himself well, whether blocking or catching passes.
"I think a number of (the freshmen look comfortable)," Alvarez said. "Ernest Mason really is exceptional. Both the kids from Fort Worth really have great speed (Mason and Michael Turner). Brandon Tobias really is a gifted person who has picked things up at wide receiver. Joe Thomas—you know it is hard to pick one out because I can go right down the line. Justin Ostrowski really is impressive. Jamal Cooper even though he is light he is going to be a big guy that is very athletic—the kind of guy you look for at that position. I hate to leave anybody out. We really like this group.
"I don't know that we have to depend on any of them. I would guess at least a handful, maybe six or seven (will play). I thought maybe up to seven I still think probably we have that many that have a chance. A lot of things are happening the next few days. We keep adding. We have had two days with a lot of time to absorb, a lot of time to meet. We will add another group of things tomorrow on both sides of the ball. All five days we are installing, so they have to keep up with that. I'll be able to tell a little bit more when we hit on Sunday and actually tomorrow when we put shoulder pads on."
As mentioned on Badger Nation's message boards, their will not be practice reports for Friday's or Saturday's sessions. Reports will begin anew with practice No. 5, Sunday afternoon.