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Wisconsin should strike (In)gold at fullback this season

Next in our position previews are the fullbacks, with an in-state product ready to run the show.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

A fullback dive and 3rd-and-short for the Wisconsin offense last season seemed so commonly placed together, they felt like a perfect pairing synonymous with “peanut butter” and “jelly,” “walk-on” and “grit,” and ... [sigh] “Wisconsin” and “cheese.”

Austin Ramesh and Alec Ingold—takers of said fullback dives that worked often—provided head coach Paul Chryst and his offense with a pair of versatile and dependable fullbacks who could block, run, and catch when called upon. Ramesh signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent before announcing his retirement earlier this summer, but Ingold returns for a senior campaign where he could once again be utilized to success within a robust and potent offense.

Wisconsin’s 2018 Fullbacks

Player Yr. Ht. Wt. Hometown
Player Yr. Ht. Wt. Hometown
Alec Ingold SR 6'2 246 Green Bay, Wis. (Bay Port)
Jake Collinsworth R-FR 6'1 234 Merrill, Wis.
John Chenal* FR 6'3 235 Grantsburg, Wis.
Measurements for returning players from Wisconsin’s spring roster. John Chenal announced himself as a fullback on Wisconsin football’s Instagram account.

Unlike last year when Ingold and Ramesh both carried respectable résumés of playing experience, this season brings with it the former being the lone upperclassmen in the position group. At least one, potentially three freshmen behind Ingold are learning the road that himself, Ramesh, Derek Watt, and Bradie Ewing paved before them.

“I would say Alec has just completely taken ownership of that role and he’s the oldest guy in that room,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said in April during spring practices. “He’s just in control. He knows exactly what he’s doing, he knows what other people are doing, and it’s been a big spring for him.”

Last week, B5Q noted Ingold as one of our players to watch this season because of the importance of the fullback position in Wisconsin’s offense and the versatility he hopes to showcase. Make no mistake about it—he will have that opportunity after splitting time with Ramesh the past two seasons following his switch from tailback.

Last fall, Ingold carried the ball only 10 times for 25 yards, but contributed three rushing touchdowns and another one via the passing game. Replacing Ramesh in the win at Indiana, the Green Bay native tallied three (two rushing, one receiving) and has found the end zone 14 times (11, three) in his Wisconsin career.

“Austin, he was kind of filling that tight end role, like third tight end. I’m trying to go third tight end, running back, wide receiver,” Ingold said in April. “I’ve learned so much from Austin the past year and doing that all last year kind of in the background, kind of got a good feel for it.

Ingold told B5Q during the spring that he moved to John Settle’s running back room and is also hoping to “diversify the portfolio” with versatility.

“If I need to be a running back for a situation, I want to be able to do that without a hitch in the giddy up,” Ingold said. “Splitting out to wide receiver just to run a route for a guy, I want to be able to be that guy, just making everything a smooth transition because I’ve been working on I-formation fullback blocking inside for however long now. I’m really just trying to—special teams, too—make everything kind of smooth over. I think that’s kind of my job right now.”

Behind Ingold, at the very least, will be walk-on redshirt freshman Jake Collinsworth. The Merrill, Wis., native, like Ingold, started at inside linebacker in his Wisconsin career before making the transition to the offensive side of the ball.

Though still listed as a tight end, another true freshman and Green Bay area native, Coy Wanner, also appeared to gain some reps in the backfield as well during spring practices.

“I think this spring is huge for [the young fullbacks] just to be able to kind of know what to do,” Ingold said. “They’re kind of in that stage of, ‘Alright, where am I going?’ Then this whole summer, I can work with these guys, and coach Settle obviously, work with them about how you’re going to do it, just refining technique.

“So I think for the spring, seeing them understand the playbook is huge, then throughout the summer and then into the fall camp, they’ll be working on the how, and we’ll all be working together.”

Tight ends coach Mickey Turner admitted in April to giving Wanner the opportunity back there, noting the similarities to his playing days as a tight end himself.

“Because Ingold’s our only true fullback going into spring, Coy’s plenty strong enough so if he learns the playbook, here’s an opportunity for—I mean, shoot, I played fullback my senior year and that was the best way for me to get on the field, so hey, whatever it takes,” Turner said. “But Coy is a great example of an in-state kid that’s got a ton of ability but didn’t necessarily play the position in high school, so if he has the ‘want-to’ like a lot of our kids do, we’re fortunate here, then we can train him to be that mold of a position, but he’s got the heart for it. That’s the thing that you can’t train.”

It should also bear watching if another freshman gets in the mix as a back-up. During a Wisconsin football Instagram story posted late last month, first-year walk-on John Chenal announced himself as a fullback. Officially noted as an inside linebacker during the National Signing Day early signing period, Chenal rushed for 4,578 yards and 65 touchdowns (along with collecting 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns in the receiving game) in his prep career at Grantsburg (Wis.) High School.