Taylor Mehlhaff will be handling Wisconsin's kickoffs. The true freshman finally got a chance to show off his leg Sunday when the team practiced kick coverage live for the first time.
The Badgers had worked on kick return and coverage each of the first four days of practice, but kickers had stood at the 50, kicking more for effect than anything else. In these situations, Mehlhaff looked like has taking a half swing as he popped the ball to returners waiting at the goal line. Sunday, Mehlhaff kicked off from the 35 and blasted his one attempt at least five yards deep in the end zone. And he did not look like was straining in the least. Again, this was his first full-go kickoff of fall camp, an audition without a warm up, if you will. Mehlhaff passed with flying colors.
Bryan Savage appears to have passed up Sean Lewis for the No. 3 quarterback job. Savage has displayed a stronger arm and better accuracy in drills and scrimmages.
Morgan Davis and Mike Lorenz are still rotating at right tackle, but for the first time one appeared to be receiving significantly more reps than the other. That honor belongs to Davis. In jumbo formations, as expected, Davis played right tackle and Lorenz played jumbo tight end.
When Wisconsin works on short yardage situations in a 10-on-10, no wide receiver, setting, Casey Hogan has been serving as the third safety with both the first and second defenses. Hogan may be simply playing a role in the drill or he just may be a short-yardage extra safety.
Paul Joran is currently a roving third-team linebacker, playing both sam and mike behind true freshmen Andy Crooks and Mike Newkirk, respectively. Joran came up with an interception Sunday, just after Crooks' pressure off the edge forced an early throw.
Levonne Rowan moved back to a starting corner role, though Chuckie Cowans rotated in with the fist defense.
Senior corner Chuckie Cowans has had a strong fall camp and will receive careful consideration when the Badgers put together their nickel packages. He could also press Levonne Rowan and Brett Bell for a starting job opposite Scott Starks.
Cowans did not intercept a pass in scrimmage work for the first time since Wednesday, but he did make a number of plays, most notably during a practice closing scrimmage.
The Badgers simulated a late game situation: Wisconsin down by six with a first-and-goal from the opponent's 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from the eight, Darrin Charles lined up to the left side of the offensive formation against Cowans and ran a fade route. Cowans, who gives up 10 inches to the 6-foot-6 Charles, timed his jump well and was able to knock John Stocco's pass away. On the next play Stocco tried to go to Charles again, but again Cowans had tight coverage. This time, the throw was also a little behind Charles.
All told, Cowans recorded three pass breakups Sunday and also very nearly blocked a field goal.
Running game clicking
After taking a punishment from the team's defense all week, Wisconsin's offense began to turn the tables Sunday, led by its running game. Anthony Davis and Booker Stanley each had a number of big runs and Chris Pressley continued to show off a solid combination of power and quickness.
Speaking of power, early in practice Matt Bernstein took an inside handoff and burst through the hole for an eight-yard gain, plowing over linebacker LaMarr Watkins and strong safety Robert Brooks at the end of the run.
Bernstein also showed off his strength in full team drills later in the afternoon, this time as a pass receiver. On a second-and-five, Bernstein caught a pass in the flats three yards short of the first down, but delivered a blow to linebacker Andy Crooks and Paul Joran, and drove forward for a seven-yard gain.
More notes from Sunday's practice
On the first play of the competitive scrimmage that closed practice (Stocco's incomplete pass intended for Charles resulted in pushups and crunches for the offense), Stocco sprinted to his left on a designed bootleg and was about to turn the corner on linebacker Mark Zalewski when Erasmus James caught him from behind. James gave Stocco a little shove (the scrimmage was live), sending the quarterback to the turf, and James took a tumble as his momentum carried him out of bounds. James and his rehabbed hip, however, were fine.
Bryan Savage made an eye-popping throw to Kurt Ware, whistling a pass over a linebacker to Ware running down the seam. Ware made a nice extension to grab the pass, then tucked it in before taking a hit.
Marcus Randle El had some success running reverses Sunday but also received a rude welcome from Joe Stellmacher. Randle El had picked up four yards on one reverse, before Stellmacher decleated him.
The hit of the day, though, belonged to free safety Jim Leonhard, who laid out tight end Tony Paciotti as he tried to make a play on a pass down the seam.
Greg Root picked up 16 yards on a screen play during scrimmage work.
Ken DeBauche is the holder for top place kicker Mike Allen.
Owen Daniels continues to impress with his route running and exceptionally strong hands. He understands body positioning and does a very good job of shielding defensive backs from the ball when he goes up to make a catch. He also has a very good rapport with quarterback John Stocco. It would not be surprising to see Daniels catch 35 or more passes this season.
Brandon White enjoyed by far his best practice of fall camp Sunday. His hands returned and he made a couple of good catches in traffic.
Luke Swan made the catch of the day, going up and pulling down a pass while taking simultaneous hits from corners Chuckie Cowans and Scott Starks.
Johnny White continued to impress. He tallied a tackle for loss Sunday, stepping up to corral Brian Calhoun.
Sophomore free safety Roderick Rogers has continued to progress well as Leonhard's understudy. Sunday he made a sparkling play when he leapt up and batted away a pass that was intended for Jonathan Orr.
Erasmus James recorded three quarterback pressures Sunday.
Joe Monty and Levonne Rowan combined for a tackle for loss during a competition drill.
Fall camp report, Aug. 15
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