Fall camp report, Aug. 14

News and notes from a lengthy Saturday morning session at the Bishop O'Connor Center

Wisconsin defensive backs coach Ron Lee has stated on numerous occasions in the past year his desire that Scott Starks turn some of his many pass breakups into interceptions. Starks has 42 career PBUs but just six interceptions. He only had one pick last season.

If fall practices are any indication, Starks may come down with a few more of the balls he hawks this season. Starks intercepted a pass in practice for the third consecutive day Saturday. He has been getting an excellent break on the ball and has taken full advantage of his interception opportunities in scrimmage work.

Chuckie Cowans, who has been working with the first defense at cornerback since Thursday, also intercepted a pass for the third consecutive day. On Thursday and Friday, Cowans returned his picks inside the 10-yard line. Today he reached the end zone, pouncing on an out route and going in untouched.

The two interceptions, though, were the fewest thrown by Wisconsin's quarterbacks since the first day of practice. Strong safety James Kamoku thought he had an interception along the left sideline, only to have it snatched away by receiver Brandon Tobias, who sprinted unabated to the end zone.

Tobias has looked better this fall. He is a strong, athletic receiver but that was never the question. His hands, footwork and the mental aspects of the game (such as where to line up) have held him back. He is improving in those areas, but is still rough around the edges.

More notes from Wisconsin's fourth practice of fall camp, an affair that stretched more than three hours at the Bishop O'Connor Center:

  • It's early and full pads have not come on yet, but Kraig Urbik has been impressive in his first four practices. He has looked very comfortable as a third-team right guard. Urbik combined with redshirt freshman center Luke Knauf to blow open a huge hole in the Badgers' third-team defensive line during one scrimmage session, spring freshman tailback Jamil Walker.
  • Booker Stanley looks the part in pass-catching drills and while catching passes in scrimmage sessions. He has the quickness and good enough hands to be an option in the passing game.
  • Among running backs, though, transfer Brian Calhoun, who cannot touch the field until next season, consistently steals the show. Calhoun is very fluid in his pass routes, has soft hands and impressive acceleration. His quick feet have also been impressive when running the ball. It goes without saying, but Wisconsin is in a very enviable position with its tailbacks. This year and in years to come.
  • Speaking of the tailbacks, Chris Pressley, the 270-pound freshman from New Jersey, looked surprisingly comfortable running a toss sweep.
  • Tight end Owen Daniels has been used in many creative ways offensively, including a number of different receiver screens and H-back reverses.
  • The best hit of fall camp thus far belongs to tight end Kurt Ware. The redshirt freshman blindsided freshman linebacker Mike Newkirk, who was attempting to pursue scrambling quarterback Tyler Donovan. Newkirk, to his credit, stayed on his feet.
  • True freshman tight end Dave Peck, however, has looked better in drills than Ware. Peck is a fluid receiver with nice hands. He will almost certainly redshirt this year but could contribute a year or two down the road.
  • Joining Brandon Williams in the Badgers' cadre of kick returners Saturday was Marcus Randle El, Booker Stanley, Scott Starks and Zach Hampton.
  • Taylor Mehlhaff has had a tough couple of practices. In full-team drills early in practice he punched two field goals from 40 yards out well off target. He also missed a 36-yard attempt at the end of a scrimmage competition drill that composed the penultimate practice session. In Mehlhaff's defense, however, the snaps and holds in all three cases were nothing to write home about.
  • After a very strong spring, receiver Brandon White is struggling. His hands have befuddled him and he appears to have lost confidence. One play in particular was telling: White was wide open over the middle, but rather than reach up and snag the pass with his hands, he went out of his way to let the ball come into his body where he could smother it to make the reception. It is far too early in fall camp to write him off, though. White is too talented for that, but right now Jeff Holzbauer is the better option as a No. 4 receiver.
  • White nearly made a 20-yard touchdown catch during a scrimmage session, but his first foot down landed out of bounds.
  • After a so-so practice Friday, Ken DeBauche bounced back emphatically Saturday, dominating the early practice punting display with three booming 50-plus-yard kicks.
  • Jonathan Orr made a few big plays Saturday. On one he beat Allen Langford to the sideline, then turned upfield and juked Roderick Rogers before the whistle blew.
  • Orr also caught a long touchdown pass down the left sideline.
  • John Stocco provided the best display thus far of his much-lauded arm strength Saturday. Orr caught one such offering, a blistering 20-yard pass to the middle of the field.

The Badgers will put on full pads for the first time Sunday, a practice that will be held at Camp Randall Stadium.

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