Get to know the future of Wisconsin football. Running back Jalen Berger is the first subject of Badger of Honor’s freshman focus series.
It took a little longer than expected, but Wisconsin football is back in just three short weeks. COVID-19 and the reasons for postponing Big Ten football have been the main topics of discussion in the summer and early fall, so we may have forgotten about the new additions to the Wisconsin football team.
Our freshman focus series will spotlight each incoming freshman that was a part of the 2020 recruiting class. It may be easy to forget about this recruiting class with all the craziness going on around us and the fact that the 2021 class is currently the best class in Wisconsin football history.
The 2020 class is the 26th ranked group in the country and 5th in the Big Ten, which still makes for a very good class. Headlining this class is a pair of offensive linemen in Trey Wedig and Jack Nelson, but in the first installment of the freshman focus series, we are going to zero in on the potential future star running back, Jalen Berger.
Berger is a 6-0, 205 lb running back out of Ramsey, New Jersey. Another running back out of New Jersey will be coming to Madison. Wisconsin has had a lot of success getting running backs from the state of New Jersey. I’m sure the Badgers would love if Berger can have an impact on the program like Ron Dayne and Corey Clement have had.
He played high school football for Don Bosco Prep, a powerhouse school in New Jersey. He is a threat in both the running and passing game. In his senior season, he had 111 carries for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns. To add to that, he had 27 catches for 357 yards and four touchdowns.
While he was a recruit, 247Sports had him as a four-star running back and the 136th overall recruit in the 2020 class. He was also the 15th overall running back in the country.
He had over 30 D1 scholarship offers from teams like Wisconsin, Alabama, Baylor, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio St., Oregon, and more. He is a big-time recruit for this Wisconsin football team.
He chose Wisconsin over Rutgers and UCLA.
Judging on the graphic in his commitment tweet, I think the running back tradition at Wisconsin was a big draw for him. He has a chance to be the next stud running back to come out of RBU in Madison.
Now let’s take a look at when we will see Berger on the field at Camp Randall. Wisconsin has big shoes to fill after Jonathan Taylor left Madison to go to the NFL. There are plenty of running backs on the roster, but a majority of them are relatively unproven. Not because they aren’t good, but because JT was so great, the others barely got on the field. Now Paul Chryst and company need to figure out how to fill that massive void.
I think that void is too large for any one player to fill by themselves. I would expect there to be a competition in camp to determine who will start and get a majority of the carried, but I think the Badgers will have more running backs in the mix this season.
This will give every running back on the Wisconsin football roster a chance to earn some playing time this season. I think Berger could have a good chance to earn some playing time early in his career. He is at a bit of a disadvantage because other players on the roster like Nakia Watson and Julius Davis have been in the offense for a couple of years now. I think it will be tough for him to overcome Watson especially, who has been looked at as the next starter.
But then again, JT came in as a freshman and essentially leap-frogged Bradrick Shaw, who was looked at as the successor for Melvin Gordon. Jalen Berger may be able to do something similar if he can come into camp and set the defense on fire as JT did. It may not be fair to Berger to expect him to come out of the gates as Taylor did, but I’m going to leave the door open for it to happen and won’t be surprised if he does.
I think if you add in his ability to catch the ball and you could get a player like James White who was able to hurt defenses in the running game and passing game. If he can be a weapon like that, the coaches wouldn’t be able to keep him on the bench.
I think Berger will likely start the season behind a few guys on the depth chart, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if he earned more and more playing time throughout his freshman season. Keep an eye on this kid, he’ll be wearing number 8 on offense.