If ever there was a position that would like a do-over from 2015 it was running back. Given its lack of production and frustration amongst fans, coaches and players it seems like the perfect spot to start our look at the 2016 version of the Wisconsin Badgers.
As spring practice approaches, the 2016 version of the Badgers backfield will get that opportunity for a re-do. Thatâ€™s because every member of the backfield is back and there are even a few new faces to look at as well.
Can this group get back to being the lynchpin of the Badgers offense? Letâ€™s take a look at what spring has in store for the UW running backs.
Returning Starter(s):Â Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal
Departing Players:Â None
Coming in to Program:Â Sam Brodner
Biggest Storyline:Â Is there another star in the backfield?
Wisconsin fans have been used to a total “next man up” situation at running back for most of the last decade. However, the 2015 season brought the reality that not every backfield is going to be three-deep. Instead, without Corey Clement in the backfield the Badgers clearly struggled to find a second, let alone third option.
Not much will change in the 2016 season, except Clement returning and likely as healthy as any running back really can be. Still, spring needs to be about figuring out which running back can be a break out player for the future of this program.
Could it be Taiwan Deal learning from an up and down redshirt freshman season?Â He finished last season with just 503 yards and six touchdowns, becoming a nice bruising option when healthy as well.
Clementâ€™s fellow senior, Dare Ogunbowale, finished last season as the top running back, but rushed for just 819 yards and seven touchdowns. However, his 4.2 yards per carry average was fairly mediocre for a Badger back and this offseason heâ€™ll be challenged more than ever before for the second running back role.
One player that will be under the microscope of the coaching staff appears to be redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw, who was singled out by running back coach John Settle, as someone that will be thrown in the deep end and expected to swim.
Thereâ€™s also a surprise in store, as former linebacker Leon Jacobs is making the switch to running back in the spring. It was a move the coaching staff experimented with a bit in bowl practice, but it will get a full look this spring and given the depth at linebacker it could be interesting to see him at this position.
There will also be a battle to watch at fullback, as Austin Ramesh will battle the break out freshman of 2015 â€” Alec Ingold. Both have big futures as contributors to the offense, but how that works out is going to be a fun part of spring football.
Who Starts Against LSU: Corey Clement
Like this is even a question? Clement is clearly the star of this group and barring any crazy injury situation like last year, heâ€™ll be the starter and star the Badgers run game needs. His return gives the Badgers vs. LSU matchup perhaps the best running back matchup of the college football season.
Clement vs. Fournette is mouth-watering to say the least. Will Clement be able to live up to the hype and potential in his final season in Madison? This game will likely go a long way towards that perception nationally.
Projected Depth Chart:
- Corey Clement
- Taiwan Deal
- Dare Ogunbowale
Ultimately, the difference of both Clement and Deal being healthy is what will stand out most from spring practice. Although Bradrick Shawâ€™s addition to the mix will be intriguing to see, Deal and Clement could be the 1-2 punch the Badgers need for the 2016 season and that will be obvious at the end of it all. Shaw may be the future, but its hard not to see the experience of the three backs ahead of him winning out when the season starts for real.