It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Wisconsin Badgers head into the 2014 season with one of the most talented backfields in all of college football. After all, stellar running backs and depth at the position have become one of the trademarks of Wisconsin football.
Since 1993, the Badgers have boasted 21 1,000-yard seasons from their running backs and have had a 1,000-yard rusher every season since 2005.
Just last year, James White and Melvin Gordon combined to rush for 3,053 yards, setting the FBS single-season record for combined rushing yards by a pair of teammates. White graduated and has moved on to the NFL, which means Gordon will get an even larger chunk of the carries for the Badgers.
Gordon ran for 1,609 yards, second-best in the Big Ten and 10th in the country, and 12 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign in 2013. In addition, his 7.8 yards per attempt was fourth-highest in the nation, and the highest among all running backs with at least 200 carries. last year.
Though Gordon is a star, he certainly isn’t the only talented talented player in the Badgers’ backfield.
Sophomore Corey Clement didn’t get too many touches during his freshman season, but he took advantage of the opportunities presented to him. A four-star recruit out of Glassboro, New Jersey, Clement averaged 8.2 yards per carry while rushing for 547 yards and seven touchdowns. For his efforts, he was twice named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has stated that the team plans on splitting carries between Gordon and Clement similar to the way they did last season with White and Gordon, so Clement will get a chance to continue to grow and improve in an even bigger role. He doesn’t possess the speed of Gordon, but his balanced style will allow him to fill the role left vacant by White’s departure.
Following Gordon and Clement in the depth chart will most likely be freshman Taiwan Deal, a four-star recruit from Hyattsville, Maryland. Among all runnings backs in the 2014 recruiting class, Deal was ranked as 14th and 26th-best prospect by 247Sports and Rivals.com, respectively.
At 6′, 216 pounds, Deal is a powerful back who was named the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior season and finished his high school career with 3,117 rushing yards and 52 touchdowns. Though he won’t get too many touches, he could still be a nice complement to the 1-2 punch of Gordon and Clement.
Fellow freshman Caleb Kinlaw is also in the mix for the third spot on the depth chart, but he’s spent most of the spring recovering from offseason surgery and had to leave Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury.
Meanwhile, at fullback, starter Derek Watt will be seeing time at tight end as well, as the coaching staff has made it known that they wish to get the talented Watt more involved on offense this season. This means that redshirt freshman Austin Ramesh and junior Derek Straus will be seeing playing time too.
Ramesh would appear to be the next option at fullback due to his solid spring, including rushing for 71 yards on 12 carries during the spring game. Straus is also a solid option at fullback, but he’s currently out with a collarbone injury.
Led by the lethal duo of Gordon and Clement, Wisconsin will own one of the most potent backfields in the entire country.
In other words, it’s just the same old song and dance for the Badgers.