Football notebook: Holzbauer knocking on the door

Junior walk-on wide receiver has a real chance to earn playing time this fall; Orr stepping up; White continuing to progress

Jeff Holzbauer has taken advantage of his opportunities. But University of Wisconsin wide receivers coach Henry Mason wants to see him take it a step further.

A walk on fourth-year junior-to-be, Holzbauer spent two seasons on the Badgers' scout team before working his way into the depth last fall. A 5-foot-11, 190-pound athlete, the Germantown, Wis., native saw playing time on special teams and in mop-up duty in 2004, but this season he could be part of UW's regular receiver rotation.

Holzbauer, who has been a solid all-around player since he first stepped on the practice field in the fall of 2002, is locked in a tight competition with sophomore Jarvis Minton for the Badgers' No. 4 receiver slot. Both Holzbauer and Minton have received a heavy dose of playing time with the No. 1 and No. 2 offense this spring, in part because top receiver Brandon Williams has only taken part in one practice.

With Williams out of action during Sunday's scrimmage-heavy workout, Holzbauer was the Badgers' No. 3 receiver, joining Jonathan Orr and Brandon White as the top trio on the first team.

"Jeff is a very solid receiver for you," Mason said. "He's a guy that you can depend on. But I think we've got to get him… with the mentality that he needs to be trying to beat these guys out instead of backing them up.

"He has shown ability, he has made a lot of plays over the course of the spring. We need to get him out to play and to do those type of things in the highly competitive situations like the scrimmage.

"It is one thing when you are running plays in practice. It is another thing when you are scrimmaging and the situation changes and you have to change with it, you know, each down and distance. He's coming in that direction but we need for him to come along a little bit more."

Holzbauer has steadily climbed the depth chart in his three-plus years on campus with a combination of consistency, solid athleticism and good hands and route running skills. Now, Holzbauer has put himself in a position to compete for significant playing time in 2005. And with the top three wide outs all entering their senior campaigns, Holzbauer could set himself up to start in 2006.

"He's a solid intermediate receiver and if he gets a little help with some play action or something he can beat you deep," Mason said. "There is nothing that he really can't do. We just need for him to do a couple things better. He's shown flashes where he can do whatever we ask him to do."

Orr stepping up his play

Jonathan Orr is never going to be the loudest or most aggressive player on the field — far from it. But what Mason needs to see from Orr is a competitive drive that has been missing at times the past two seasons.

"I don't need Jonathan to be a fiery guy," Mason said. "I just need him to be a confident guy, confident in his ability. He's got ability. He can run. He's got nice size, all those things. Just want him just to realize that he's a good player and then start to play like it."

At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Orr has a strength and speed combination that is rarely matched. He exhibited his considerable talents when he caught 47 passes for 842 yards and eight touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2002 but his production has lagged since. He caught seven passes for 117 yards as his confidence lagged his sophomore year. Last season he slipped to the No. 4 receiver on the depth chart and finished with 13 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

But Orr has quietly enjoyed a strong spring. He has been consistent and has flashed improved hands, including some of the Badgers' best catches.

"He's looked pretty good to me," Mason said. "I've been pretty happy with him and what he's done this spring."

White continuing to progress

Last spring, Jeff Holzbauer took the second biggest jump among UW receivers. The top honor belonged to Brandon White, who went from situational blocking receiver to legitimate pass-catching threat in a marvelous 15-practice sequence.

After a brief hiccup last fall, White continued his upward trajectory. He earned the No. 3 receiver role during the season and ended up with 17 catches for 171 yards. That after having three catches for 24 yards in his first two seasons combined.

White stood out in UW's scrimmage on Sunday and has played well throughout the spring, positioning himself for an even larger role in the Badgers' offense next season.

"He had a good day today in a very competitive situation," Mason said. "I just want him to be a guy that you can depend on, whatever you ask him to do… All you ask for is to know what you are going to get day in and day out, week in and week out.

"We feel pretty good about what he can do for us and we have a good understanding of what he can do. We try to put him in those situations."

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