Mehlhaff more confident, prepared

Badger kicker expects summer workouts to propel him to productive sophomore season

Missing a chip shot field goal was not the way Taylor Mehlhaff wanted to walk away from spring practices last April. But there he stood at Lussier Stadium in the University of Wisconsin's annual cardinal/white spring football game, having watched a 23-yard attempt go by the wayside.

Four months later Mehlhaff has his confidence back as he embarks on his sophomore season.

"That's not a fun thing to go into the summer with after missing a field goal like that," Mehlhaff said Wednesday, prior to the start of the Badgers' fall training camp at Camp Randall Stadium. "Definitely I knew I was going to work my butt off this summer."

In practice throughout last season, Mehlhaff struggled with his technique on field goals as he adjusted to kicking off the ground. But he worked diligently over the summer, whether training with teammates in Madison or performing well at a Chris Sailer camp in California.

"Mechanically, there's small things with kicking; there's just little things you need to fix," Mehlhaff said. "I had just little problems I need to work on. I got drilled to over-exaggerate what I'm trying to perfect. I've done these little drills all summer and I feel a lot better about it."

Now, Mehlhaff believes he is ready to move beyond his kickoff specialist duties and win the field goal kicking job as well. He is competing with redshirt freshman walk-on Adam Schober for the spot that UW coach Barry Alvarez has called the team's biggest question mark.

"I haven't kicked in a game situation like that (spring game) and I just need the confidence," Mehlhaff said. "I need to feel the confidence in my team around me and I want to feel confidence in them too."

Mehlhaff kicked field goals off a tee in high school and Badger kickers will use a tee for training purposes at times when a holder is not available.

"This summer we worked with snapper and holder a ton and I wanted to just throw that tee away… and just work with them every chance I could get," Mehlhaff said. "We did that. I think we had a really productive summer too."

In his first fall camp a year ago, Mehlhaff made a big splash with his kickoffs, regularly booming them deep into the end zone. By season's end, however, his distance and hang time had lagged.

"Towards the end of the season I felt like my leg wasn't conditioned enough," Mehlhaff said. "Just doing kicks all the time, I feel like I didn't do enough running to keep my leg conditioned. All I was doing was kicking. I'm going to take a different approach to it this fall and try to get a lot more running in there too to keep my leg in better condition."

Mehlhaff, who was a four-sport athlete while in high school at Aberdeen (S.D.) Central, is used to more a balanced approach to conditioning. Before Wednesday's practice, he did a pool workout to loosen up his legs.

There is a danger, he acknowledged, in over kicking.

"I've struggled with injuries to my groin on my kicking leg and also kind of the top of my hamstring on my kicking leg," Mehlhaff said. "I have to be real careful, especially during camp, we're going to kick so much. I just need to be smart and take care of my leg."

Mehlhaff was an instructor for two Chris Sailer kicking camps this offseason. In July, he placed second in a competition for college kickers as part of another Sailer camp.

"I feel good about where I'm at right now," Mehlhaff said. "I just need to keep building on that. Between me and the snapper and holder, we're going to get a lot of reps here in camp. We just need to keep going up from there."

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