We're into part 7 of our camp previews today and before we go any further here's the other six previews for your viewing pleasure:
Of course today we'll be breaking down what's probably the most famous and important position at Wisconsin - the running backs.
Montee Ball (Sr., 5'11", 212lbs.): 1,923yds rushing, 39TD's (+ 1 passing TD), 2,229yds from scrimmage (led the nation in all three categories).
Thoughts on the Unit:
Camp is sure to provide a ton of opportunities as we all know the news of Montee (errr MON-TAY) Ball being assaulted and his resulting facial injuries and concussion. He should be able to go during their prep for week one opponent Northern Iowa, but he'll be taking camp off.
It's not too big of a deal unless Ball is somehow still having concussion issues into the season. Let's face it, Ball wasn't going to get a ton of carries in camp to begin with. They held him out during most of spring to save his body and we were likely to see more protection of his body in camp to begin with.
What it does do is give an increased role on the field to the likes of Melvin Gordon, Jeff Lewis, and of course James White during camp. They'll all see more carries and that's not a bad thing working behind a fluid offensive line situation.
Gordon was easily the standout player this past spring after redshirting the 2011 season thanks to nagging injuries early on in the season. He looked fresh and probably the fastest player in the backfield coming out of spring.
Montee Ball sure thinks highly of him, saying during spring that he thinks he could be "one of the greatest Wisconsin has ever had." That's some high praise from a Heisman Trophy finalist like Ball.
It also helps someone like Jeffrey Lewis who has kinda been an afterthought going in to just his redshirt sophomore season. He played 7 games in 2011, rushing for 187yds on just 33 carries (a 5.7avg.) and it's clear he's got the talent to contribute, but he needs to take this opportunity and run with it if he wants to see increased playing time this season. Lewis is one of the top under the radar guys in this camp and we will be watching him closely.
We've gone deep on the preview and we haven't even mentioned the main backup yet. James White began his Badgers career flashing a lot of talent, leading the team in rushing during his freshman season, but last year saw a big regression as White attempted to put more weight on and be more of a finesse back at times, all leading to just over 700yds rushing. It's not really his game and he slimmed down a bit this spring and looked a heck of a lot less tentative in the spring game this season.
He should see an increased role as offensive coordinator Matt Canada has stated his desire to use more two-back sets this season.
What is clear from this unit is that they are deep and very talented. In fact it's safe to say there are at least three or four guys in the backfield that could and would be starters anywhere else in the country. It's a luxury Wisconsin loves to have and will put to good use throughout camp.
Others to Watch:
Vonte Jackson (Fr., 6'0", 200lbs.): The true freshman out of Kenosha Bradford is recovering from knee surgery and if he's healthy enough look for him to be one of the surprises of camp. Most likely he'd be a candidate to redshirt, especially with the crazy depth that's in front of him this season. No doubt about it though, he's a talented player that will make major contributions in the future, but anything they get out of him this camp and season will be a bonus.
Derek Straus (RS Fr., 6'0", 230lbs.): He's an intriguing talent that could play a role as the fullback for this team, but don't think of him as just a blocker either. The Waunakee native has the ability to be one of the most athletic fullbacks the Badgers have had in some time, but could also be a tweener and play some time at running back as well. It will be fun to watch how he progresses in camp.