True freshman Ernest Mason entered this season with plenty of fanfare, and for good reason. Mason was one of the most electrifying players on the field during Wisconsin's fall camp. An exceptionally fast player, Mason has had to adjust to the collegiate game.
"You put on his high school tape and he was on top of you," receivers coach Henry Mason said. "He could do that. They kick him the ball he runs by people. Here there are guys, there aren't many, but there are some guys that run as well as he does. So it is just learning that the post route is a post route is a post route. It is different against that coverage, against this guy, against that guy. That is where he has to go to be a good player. But he is doing good right now."
While making adjustments, Mason has contributed. Midway through the season he joined Brandon Williams as one of the deep men on kick returns. He has returned three kicks for 46 yards this season. Mason also has three rushing attempts for 17 yards and one reception for 19 yards. While Ernest Mason's numbers are far from gaudy, Henry Mason feels that he is coming along and has shown flashes of his immense potential.
"He is starting to feel comfortable with playing college football," Henry Mason said. "He is getting a lot done on special teams and I think he has a chance to be a real special player for a lot of reasons but mainly because he can flat run. He may be the fastest guy I have ever coached. Certainly he can make some things happen."
Circumstance has also played a role in Ernest Mason's productivity. The Badgers coaches stated on numerous occasions earlier this year that Mason would have a shot at returning kicks and punts in addition to working in with the offense. With Jim Leonhard and Brandon Williams enjoying strong seasons at punt and kick returner, respectively, there was little opportunity for Mason to step up. In addition, the receiving corps, led by Lee Evans and Williams, is a crowded group to say the least.
"It is just the situation is such where if this were a year ago when we didn't have Lee he would probably be more involved," Henry Mason said. "We want to bring him along. The good part about it is you don't have to rush him. You can take your time with him and you can make sure that whatever he is doing out there he understands what he is doing, understands why he is doing it without having to put him in a big-time pressure situation. So we want to give him a few things that he can do and do well and not stress him mentally. Just let him develop. Most of the time that works a lot easier."