Taylor Mehlhaff Q&A

A recent addition to the Lou Groza Award "Watch List," Taylor Mehlhaff shared his thoughts with BN senior writer Eric Schmoldt on fall camp and kicking off of the new one-inch tee.

What has camp been like for you guys on special teams? It seems like you guys are off doing your own thing…

"It's been good, that's just kind of how it is with kickers. You can only kick so much so you have to be careful with how much you do. We get all of our stuff done at the very beginning and then we'll come back in the middle of practice. You don't want to wear your leg out. I did a little too much kicking last Monday but I'm back now."

"You've got to be careful with practice so many days in a row. In the summer, we only kick about every other day and now we're kicking every day. The season gets long and the kickoffs wear down your leg a little bit."

What do you guys do during practice to keep yourselves busy?

"We'll come inside and do little stuff. I'll work on some onsides and I'll go with the snappers and we'll work on getting the laces perfect and little things like that. It gets long, we just play catch sometimes."

I heard a rumor that you guys may have a game that you guys play?

"We have little games, like one we call "Polf." We play golf, but we punt it or alternate punting and throwing and things like that. We have stuff to take the time away a little bit."

Coach Bielema brought up Thursday that Paul Standring came to him and told him he wanted to play more. [Bielema] said he decided that would be okay when he found out you were punting the ball well. Is that something you worked on in the summer, I know you punted in high school?

"Yeah, I know what I'm doing a little bit. I obviously don't work on it, so I'm not real consistent, but I can hit some pretty good balls. Paul really works his butt off and he's a great athlete and deserves to be on some of those special teams and I hope he gets the chance to do that."

So it was basically that you saw how hard he works and you wanted him to be out there so you volunteered to work on punting?

"Definitely. That's something that I should know how to do in my back pocket anyways. As a kicker, you should know how to punt a little bit. It's been good, I've messed around with it more."

What kind of range are we going to be looking at for you this season?

"It's hard to say because it all matters what the conditions are. I have confidence where I'm hitting outside 50 to 55 (yards). I feel good, I'm real confident right now. Having that year of experience last year will definitely help me."

How much can you work on that in the summer?

"I think just as a unit, just working with the snap and hold is so much more important than kicking off that little stand. I think we all worked so hard this summer with consistency with field goals and everything. I really expect big things out of us this year. It should start paying off for us this year."

Every unit has its relationships and it seems like you guys are pretty good friends, is that pretty important with the kickers?

"Definitely, outside of football, those guys are my closest friends. Paul [Standring] and Kenny [DeBauche] and [long snapper] Steve [Johnson] and those guys, we hang out together. Those are the guys I'm with everyday at practice."

Obviously on kickoffs you proved to be a pretty big weapon last year pinning teams deep, do you feel confident this year that you'll come in and do the same thing?

"Yeah, I really think I'll get a lot better, touchback-wise. I think I'll have some more. The only change is that they lowered the kickoff tee to one-inch, instead of two inches. They're trying to limit the amount of touchbacks. That two-inch tee helps kickers kick it higher and deeper. It'll affect people this year, but I'm really happy with the way I've responded off it. I've been kicking pretty well. My hang time is on quite the same, but distance-wise it's been the same. Last year I was at about 45 percent touchback percentage. I want to be between 50 and 60 percent this year."

When did you find out about that rule change?

"They did it early in the spring. They want to speed up the game and limit the amount of touchbacks."

Were you disappointed or did you see it as a challenge?

"I'm not really disappointed. Everybody's going to have to deal with it, and really, I like the way I responded to it. I think it will be better for us in the long run and our team will have an advantage from it. I was at a camp with a bunch of guys that were struggling off it and I was doing really well so hopefully it pays off for us."

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