With Wisconsin Football’s fall camp about to begin, Badger of Honor takes a closer look at what fans should watch out for this season at running back.
Pre-Fall Camp Projected Depth Chart
- Jonathan Taylor – JR
- Nakia Watson – RS FR
- Garrett Groshek – RS JR
- Isaac Guerendo – RS FR
Others in the mix: Bradrick Shaw (RS SR), Brady Schipper (RS FR), Julius Davis (FR)
What to watch for
At Wisconsin football’s fall camp, there won’t be much of a battle for the starting running back position. The reigning Doak Walker Award winner, Jonathan Taylor, enters the season as the best running back in the Big Ten if not the entire NCAA. Last season he rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. His huge season earned him a slew of awards including the aforementioned Doak Walker Award and he was a finalist for the Maxwell Award, which is given to the best all-around football player in the country.
The backup job, however, seems to be completely up for grabs, and there are plenty of worthy candidates. The thing with Wisconsin football is, they always seem to have a decent rotation of running backs going, and Chryst likes to ride the hot hand.
Let’s start with Garrett Groshek. Groshek has been a nice compliment to Taylor. Taylor comes in the first few downs the ball down the throat of the defense and then Groshek comes in on passing downs. He is quick and has good hands, but he isn’t just a threat in the passing game. He rushed for more than 400 yards and a touchdown last season, which is nothing to sneeze at considering he was backing up a guy who had 307 carries. I fully expect him to be the “backup”, but his primary job will likely be the third-down back.
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Bradrick Shaw has the most seniority in the running back group, and he showed some flashes in the 2016 season while behind Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale. The next season, he was expected to be the guy, but Taylor blew up and took the starting role. He finished second on the team in carries but suffered a knee injury in the Minnesota game that caused him to miss all of the 2018 season. His injury opened the door for Deal and Groshek to get a bulk of the backup carries. If he can stay healthy and produce as he did a few years ago, he will be a strong candidate to back up JT this season.
Nakia Watson took a redshirt last season, even though many thought he would have been ready to roll last season. He’s had time to learn the system last year and had shown a lot of growth. He ran with the second-team offense in the spring but didn’t necessarily seal up the number two job. It will be interesting to see if he can hold off Shaw for the primary backup job this year and possibly be the replacement for Taylor after this season, assuming he leaves.
Julius Davis is an incoming freshman who could see some time on the field this season. He is a physical freak who doesn’t shy away from contact and is tough to bring down. He will definitely push for the number two job, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he got his feet wet in some blowout games.
Brady Schipper is a walk-on freshman, who showed some flashes during spring practice. Wisconsin football has that well-known history of walk-on players not only making the team but making an impact as well. He could be a name to keep an eye out for in the future.
Isaac Gurendo is a converted wide receiver who has a lot of speed. With his experience as a receiver, he might be a natural backup to Groshek as a third-down back. Guerendo could be a possible dark horse candidate to come in and make some noise, although it could be tough to see playing time in this deep and talented running back group.
Wisconsin football is commonly thought of as “Running Back U,” and for good reason. This position is one of the best and most productive in the country year in and year out. If someone goes down with an injury, there is always depth for the next man to step up and produce. This year is no different. There is plenty of talent and youth in this group, look for them to be right up there again this year.
All stats are courtesy of uwbadgers.com.