Fall camp report, Aug. 17

The Badgers practiced at Camp Randall Tuesday afternoon. Taylor Mehlhaff was the star attraction but the defense provided a good encore.

The most emphatic positive reactions elicited from players or coaches during Tuesday afternoon's practice were the result of Taylor Mehlhaff's booming kickoffs (see story).

After years of Badger fans and coaches dreaming of the days of John Hall, Mehlhaff will make people get up and cheer this fall. The ball simply explodes off his leg and he makes it look relatively effortless.

Adam Schober is wearing a red, offensive jersey, designating him as primarily a kicker. He has received significant reps as a reserve place kicker, kickoff specialist and punter this fall and has displayed a strong leg. If the Badgers did not have Mehlhaff, this walk-on would be a talk of camp and UW's kickoff specialist. Wisconsin's depth and talent in the kicking game will take a dramatic turn with these two true freshmen and the emergence of redshirt freshman Ken DeBauche, who continues to battle R.J. Morse for the top punting job.

Players used on the top kick coverage unit included Chuckie Cowans, Brandon White, Zach Hampton, Brandon Kelly, Dontez Sanders, Johnny White, LaMarr Watkins, Mark Zalewski, James Kamoku, Roderick Rogers and Jim Leonhard.

The No. 2 kick coverage unit employed players such as Hampton, Ben Strickland, Jameson Davis, Mike Newkirk, Jack Ikegwuonu, Derek Yentz, Kamoku, Derek Konkol, Reggie Cribbs, Jeff Holzbauer, Allen Langford and Levonne Rowan.

As the ball turns(over)

Wisconsin's defense feasted on turnovers again Tuesday with true freshman Jack Ikegwuonu leading the way with two interceptions (see Hot News).

Jim Leonhard and Levonne Rowan also intercepted passes. Rowan's pick came after he learned that breaking up a pass is not always a good thing. Rowan made a play on a Tyler Donovan pass along the sideline that was intended for Brandon Williams. After the ball hit the turf, however, defensive coordinator Bret Bielema rather emphatically told Rowan that simply knocking that particular pass down was not good enough. He should have intercepted it, Bielema told him, in so many words.

The Badgers' offense had a bit of fumbleitis Tuesday. Donovan fumbled the snap one play after bobbling it. Bryan Savage and Booker Stanley each fumbled twice and Chris Pressley fumbled once. Reggie Cribbs returned one of Stanley's fumbles for a touchdown.

Red zone unkind

Wisconsin's penultimate scrimmage set the ball at the 20 as the offense attempted to pick up third downs from the three, four and five yards away from the first-down marker. The Badgers picked up their lone third and three on a swing pass to fullback Matt Bernstein. The Badgers, though, picked up just 1 of 2 on third-and-four and only 2 of 8 on third-and-five.

Wisconsin's offense was much more successful in its two-minute drill. Owen Daniels would have had a touchdown on the first play of the scrimmage had the whistle not blown. As it was, Mike Allen capped the scrimmage with a 37-yard field goal.

Cowans proving his worth

Chuckie Cowans stands a good chance of starting Sept. 4 and will certainly see the field often this fall. The reason is his reliability. Cowans' height is a liability and his athleticism is par for the course at corner. But the senior is one of the most consistent players on Wisconsin's defense. He simply does not miss plays and he is almost always in the right position on the field.

Cowans solid play nearly led to a Jim Leonhard interception during a partial scrimmage drill. Cowans stayed on Jonathan Orr's outside shoulder and rode him into the middle of the field, keeping on Orr's shoulder. That forced the throw to the inside, where Leonhard was waiting.

Joran back to strongside

Paul Joran was back working at sam linebacker Tuesday, with the second defense. Mike Newkirk took the reps at second-team mike and Dontez Sanders continued to work with the second unit at will. T.J. Wielebski served as the third team mike linebacker Tuesday.

Calhoun looking good

The Sporting News recently dubbed Anthony Davis the fastest tailback in the nation and one of the best players in the country under six feet tall. Transfer Brian Calhoun does not compare to Davis, few do, but he may be as fast. His vision has been impressive and when he hits a hole he gets through it in a hurry.

Davis and Booker Stanley have shown a fair amount of improvement as pass catchers, but both can take lessons from Calhoun, who is very fluid releasing out of the backfield.

Calhoun also could bring something to the team as a kick returner in 2005. He took one of Mehlhaff's offerings about five yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the 30 before the whistle blew.

Additional notes

Erasmus James had three sacks Tuesday, including two on successive plays. Jamal Cooper had two sacks and Lyle Maiava and Anttaj Hawthorne also had sacks.

Joe Stellmacher spent one series as the second-team free safety while Roderick Rogers moved temporarily to strong safety.

Freshmen defensive tackles Gino Cruse and Nick Hayden have looked incrementally better each day at fall camp and may have enjoyed their best practices Tuesday. Both performed well in one-on-one pass rush/block drills and held their own in scrimmage sessions. Defensive line coach John Palermo could be heard lauding Cruse for hustling after a play downfield. "That's what it's going to take to be a player," he said.

Jameson Davis and Zach Hampton combined to break up a pass, but one of them should have intercepted it.

Sean Lewis had one of his better days of practice, connecting with Jeff Holzbauer for a long touchdown pass and having another well-thrown pass that only fell incomplete due to Brett Bell's interference with receiver Brandon Williams.

Tyler Donovan did a nice job running the option; albeit in a controlled situation. On one play, Erasmus James' got penetration and forced Donovan to cut back. He did, and he picked up 15 yards before the whistle blew.

The hit of the day belonged to Allen Langford, who drilled Holzbauer.

Holzbauer has had one of the most consistent, solid camps of any player. He still has his work cut out for him to get playing time at receiver this year but he will be tough to keep off the field in the some capacity.

Side note: The new and improved Camp Randall is a sight to behold. The scoreboard is enormous and the sound system (which was being tested Tuesday afternoon) is clear and can be quite loud. The luxury boxes, new scoreboards and closed off southeast and southwest corners have successfully made the old stadium look sparkling new.

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