ESPN ranked school for each position for their “Position U” article. Wisconsin football makes an appearance in multiple spots.
Schools are commonly fighting about who is “Quarterback U” or “Running Back U.” ESPN ranked various schools on each position based on players who attended those schools. They ranked the top schools for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive lines, defensive lines, defensive backs, and linebackers.
Wisconsin showed up on three of the lists.
Running Back U
ESPN ranked Wisconsin football number two for “Running Back U” behind Alabama. As a biased Badger fan, I’d love to argue that we are and should be number one. ESPN breaks down its decision on why Alabama is number one. The notable players listed are Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, and Shaun Alexander. Ingram and Henry have Heisman trophies and Alexander went on to have a very successful professional career, winning the MVP in 2005.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, hasn’t had a Heisman winner since Ron Dayne in 1999. Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon have both been finalists, however, putting up huge numbers in their respective seasons.
It doesn’t necessarily matter who you put in the backfield at Wisconsin because they will produce. Wisconsin running backs are consistently near the top of the NCAA in rushing every year. Every broadcast on television mentions their style of play, they will run it down your throat, no matter who is carrying the ball.
Behind the Badgers are LSU, Oklahoma, and Miami. Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten on the “Running Back U” list.
Tight End U
Wisconsin football ranked 5th on this list behind Miami, Iowa, Stanford and Missouri. Notable Badger alumni include Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Lance Kendricks, and Troy Fumagalli. I think Wisconsin will likely be moving up the list after this year. If Jake Ferguson continues playing the way he did last year, it wouldn’t surprise me if he jumped to the NFL next year. He has already been named to the Mackey Award watch list, which is given to the nation’s top tight end.
The future at tight end is looking just fine as well. Freshman Hayden Rucci could be the next man up after Ferguson leaves. The Badgers are in the top four for Cam Large, the 2020 3-star tight end out of Dedham, MA. If the Badgers can land him, Wisconsin has a good shot at moving up this list in the next few years.
Offensive Line U
I feel like this goes hand-in-hand with Running Back U. Usually, a team with successful running backs comes with a great offensive line. Again, Wisconsin football finished number two, and again they finished behind Alabama.
Notable players from Wisconsin include Joe Thomas, Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler, Travis Frederick, Michael Deiter, and David Edwards. Somehow ESPN forgot to mention Rob Havenstein and Ryan Ramczyk, who are both currently starting for their team in the NFL.
Again, it surprises me that Wisconsin finished second here. Wisconsin football is built around the offensive line. They are consistently putting quality all-conference lineman in the NFL draft. ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren explains why Alabama is ranked ahead of Wisconsin.
"It’s no surprise that Alabama finds itself at the top of this list with Wisconsin a close second. In this research, Alabama had the most seasons with an all-conference player and has had an incredible amount of players drafted since 1998."
ESPN may not be basing their ranking on NFL careers, but it still feels like there is some SEC-bias here.