Wisconsin Football: Biggest Questions Heading into Spring Practice

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Melvin Gordon runs into the endzone following a 26-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Jim Oxley photograph

Replacing Melvin Gordon

On first thought, it’s not reasonable to suggest the Wisconsin Badgers will be able to move on seamlessly from Melvin Gordon. What he did last season – 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground, Heisman Trophy runner-up, Doak Walker Award, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Big Ten Running Back of the Year, unanimous All-American … I’ll stop here – was simply incredible.

But Wisconsin has had a knack for finding talent at running back and utilizing multiple backs for the betterment of the team. In the past few years alone Wisconsin has seen the like of Gordon, James White, Montee Ball and John Clay share time with great results.

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2015 looks to be one of the younger groups of Wisconsin running backs in a while. The team will likely start junior Corey Clement, who has 26 games as a Badger under his belt. Clement was 51 yards away from a 1,000 yard season last year, and has 1,496 career yards and  16 touchdowns, and has a career average of 7.0 yards per carry.

Clement will be the day one starter when spring practice opens, and is easily the most experienced back on the squad. Wisconsin will return Dare Ogunbowale, who switched from defensive back to running back mid-season last year and totaled 193 yards on 34 carries, his biggest production coming in the blowout win over Nebraska.

Behind the two? It’s all freshmen, redshirt or otherwise.

Taiwan Deal, Caleb Kinlaw and Mark Saari return after sitting out a redshirt season last year, but the two likely running backs to see major action on the field are a pair of incoming recruits.

Wisconsin landed Texas recruit Jordan Stevenson and Alabama prospect Bradrick Shaw in the off-season, and the two will likely be given every opportunity to play as true freshmen. The duo were impressive high school players, and, like Clement, look to be able to impact the Badgers early in their careers.

That duo aren’t enrolled yet and therefore won’t be on the field for spring practice, so the returning guys will have a leg up once the summer sessions begin.

While plenty of options exist for the Badgers, the team will likely stick to three main backs throughout the season. As always, injuries could have a say in what ultimately happens, but the likeliest scenario is Clement, Stevenson and Shaw shoulder the brunt of the running back duties once the season begins.

Next: Quarterback Conundrum