Football notebook: Big Ten media days

Alvarez on the kicking game; Sutton stepping away from football; Larger role for Donovan…

CHICAGO — When asked if he was confident in his kicking game at the conclusion of spring practice, University of Wisconsin head football coach Barry Alvarez answered with a simple, yet definitive answer: no. Four months later, in comments made to local media following his formal press conference at the Big Ten media event here Monday, Alvarez said he has not changed that stance.

In an attempt to cement his position as the starting kicker for 2005, Taylor Mehlhaff, who spent last year handling kickoff duties for the Badgers, took part in a Chris Sailer Kicking Camp this summer, Alvarez said, where the sophomore finished second in the camp's kicking competition.

According to Alvarez, the camp invites the top kickers from around the nation to compete in a series of competitions to test the gamut of their skills.

"It's a step in the right direction," Alvarez said of Mehlhaff's performance "[But] I'm not confident in it until I see it on a consistent basis."

Mehlhaff will be fending off redshirt freshman Adam Schober and incoming freshman walk-on Matt Fischer for the right to kick field goals and extra points.

Injury ends Sutton's career: Freshman linebacker Nick Sutton left the team after he was unable to recover from the neck injury he suffered last fall, Alvarez said.

Sutton spent most of spring practice still wearing a neck brace, but coaches were hopeful of his return.

Sutton was twice named the Badgers' scout team defensive player of the week while redshirting last season.

Newkirk moves inside: After spending most of his time at defensive end this past season, Mike Newkirk has found himself switching to defensive tackle for the upcoming season.

"We just felt that may be a better position, plus we have more guys outside," Alvarez said. "We feel like this gives him a better chance to get on the field.

The redshirt freshman has bulked up considerably since joining Wisconsin last fall, adding 15 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, weighing in at 265 pounds for fall camp.

Donovan in for larger role: Alvarez reiterated his desire to utilize backup quarterback Tyler Donovan's diverse set of physical skills.

"Tyler's talented," Alvarez said. "We've got to do a good job of having something ready for Tyler that feature his strengths. Not just expecting him to grasp everything and do everything that way. I think we as coaches need to be innovative to take advantage of what he brings to the table."

Alvarez further referenced Georgia head coach Mark Richt's use of explosive backup signal caller D.J. Shockley in the Bulldogs' Outback Bowl victory over the Badgers.

"[Georgia] worked another guy in because he brought a little something to the table," Alvarez said. "And it makes the defenses preparing for you spend a lot of time in preparation, extra time away taken away from the meat and potatoes."

Chryst not expected to emulate Bielema's success: While Alvarez watched as Bret Bielema helped revitalized the Wisconsin defense a season ago, he is not expecting first-year co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to duplicate that level of success.

"I don't know if we can make that drastic of an impact (on offense)," Alvarez said. "I thought we went from a below average defense to a dominant defense a year ago. To take that type of strides, that's too much to ask for."

—Adam Parks and Tom Ziemer

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