Wisconsin struggled with its kick coverage at times last season, particularly early in the year. That should not be a problem this season. Taylor Mehlhaff is not likely to let many teams return the ball at all.
Mehlhaff's performance Tuesday during live kick coverage drills surpassed impressive. His first attempt sailed to the back line of the end zone. Rather than preparing for a run back, kick returner Brian Calhoun looked as if he was trying to guess whether the kick would sail through the uprights.
Kick No. 2 flew about 10 yards past the back of the end zone, took one bounce and collided with the railing in front of the first row of seating in the south end zone. Mehlhaff's third and final kickoff was merely five yards deep in the end zone. There was only a light cross wind blowing during practice at Camp Randall Tuesday afternoon and Mehlhaff's kicks not only had eye-opening distance but exceptional hang time as well.
"We thought he had a strong leg," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "His leg got tired earlier this week but obviously he got it back."
The Badgers could get used to seeing kicks downed for touchbacks, a rare sight since kickers such as John Hall and Vitaly Pisetsky graced the field.
"Haven't seen one of those in a while," Alvarez said of the touchbacks. "That is really encouraging and actually he did that the other day out at practice; kicked it pretty deep.
"It's good stuff. If you can start an offense on the minus 20 all the time, that's huge."
With Mehlhaff's leg strength there will be some temptation to use him as a long-range kicker. Wisconsin's top place kicker, Mike Allen, has continued to be extremely reliable from 40 yards in this fall but struggles from longer distances.
Mehlhaff has not had the same success on field goals as he has had kicking off, but that has been due in large part to poor snaps on the second field goal unit.
Alvarez said he did not know if Mehlhaff would have an opportunity on long field goals.
"We'll just wait and see," he said.
Walk-on also impresses
His kickoffs were not as high and he did not blast one past the end zone, but freshman Adam Schober continued to impress Tuesday. Schober, a walk-on from Plano, Texas, had kickoffs travel eight and four yards deep into the end zone, respectively. Only his first attempt fell short, but Schober had to use a holder on that kick after a mild wind gusts blew the ball off its tee twice. The attempt still traveled inside the five.
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