With fall camp set to start this afternoon, BadgerBlitz.com finishes it's position-by-position preview of the 2010 UW football team. In this final installment the Badger specialists are profiled.
BIGGEST QUESTION ENTERING CAMP: Is Welch back to his freshman form?
As a sophomore, Philip Welch did not perform as well as he did during his first season as the Badger kicker. He missed his first three kicks to start the season and had many questioning what was wrong.
After setting the bar as high as he did as a freshman, it was surprising to some how the Colorado native would struggle so mightily to begin the season. But after missing those three early kicks, Welch bounced back and put together a decent season as he hit 17 of his remaining 21 attempts, including a bomb from 57 yards out.
Just as he seemed to correct his mistakes, however, Welch missed an extra point at Hawaii that had coach Bret Bielema put Chris Borland back there. Needless to say, with Kyle French now on the roster, Welch is going to have to perform better because there is a viable backup breathing down his neck.
Fall camp will be a solid indicator of whether Welch is back on track.
Last year, Gilreath finally broke through and took a punt to the house after getting so close for the first three seasons of his career. And that was on two very sore feet.
Now, as the senior wide receiver and return specialist enters his senior season, he doesn't have any problem with his arches that limited his shiftiness. In regards to the injury, Gilreath said it hampered his lateral movement as he could move side to side without feeling sharp pains in his feet. He claimed it wasn't as bothersome when he would run straight ahead, but as soon as he cut it would flare up.
Now, with healthy feet, Gilreath will have his shiftiness and speed back without any threat of suffering sharp bursts of pain. And anyone following his career knows that he is a potent threat to change field position for the Badgers through his special teams performance.
With Welch struggling at times a season ago, having a solid and capable backup pushing behind him will likely do nothing but focus the Badger junior. That's where French is likely going to make his contribution this season. If he practices well, it will make Welch practice better. And a better performing Welch means a better performing UW offense. Hopefully for the Badgers, important missed field goals like the one against Iowa a year ago won't surface again.
EARLY FALL CAMP PREDICTION:
Brad Nortman, who has had some bouts with inconsistency at times throughout his career will once again have the position to himself. I would like to see a bit better hang time out of Nortman's punts and a bit more consistency when trying to pin opponents inside their own red zone. He has the physical tools to be a good punter, he just needs to be more consistent.
With Welch and Nortman entering their junior seasons, they have a chance to become one of the best combos in the Big Ten.