Tailback happier on solid ground

Fear of flying, first college football travel experience impacted Walker's game day confidence

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez is not worried about Jamil Walker's long-term confidence. The true freshman simply needs to adapt to air travel.

Walker burst onto the scene with a 16-carry 88-yard debut in Wisconsin's win over UNLV two weeks ago in Madison but was held to zero yards on five carries against Arizona.

The key, Alvarez said Monday, is comfort. The Badgers' charter flight to Tucson Friday was the beginning of only the second trip Walker had every taken that included air travel.

The first time he was on a plane, Alvarez said, "they had to send a car to get him because he wouldn't get back on.

"So first of all, he's frightened to even be on the airplane. He gets airsick and so on and so forth. The first away game, just the magnitude of it, how long you spend in the hotel, the rain delay, just so many things going on for a young person, sometimes it's just flat overwhelming.

As a coach, Alvarez added, it is easy to get caught up in X's and O's. "But put yourself back when you're 18 years old," he said, "and all of a sudden all those things happen to you, and you're in a place you've never even seen before, you've never even seen a mountain before, let alone dealing with the temperature, then thunderstorms… and a loud, hostile crowd, it can be overwhelming. And so it's just a matter of that's an experience. You have to learn from it."

The Badgers need a confident Walker to compliment starting tailback Booker Stanley, who ran 30 times for 135 yards Saturday. For at least another week, Walker is Wisconsin's No. 2 tailback while Anthony Davis recovers from an eye injury.

"The first time the freshmen come down here and scrimmage... that's normally what happens," Alvarez said. "So hopefully that experience (is) behind him…he can just concentrate and practice the way he does and perform on game day the way he does at practice."

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