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Wisconsin football: 2019 running back overview and 2020 preview

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What does a Badger world look like without Jonathan Taylor?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next week or so, we here at B5Q are going to run through every position group on the Wisconsin Badgers football team and give you a recap of how they did in the 2019 season. In the same damn post we are also going to give you a preview of what we think 2020 is going to look like! Without further ado, here is your review/preview of the Wisconsin backfield.

2019 statistical leaders

  • Jonathan Taylor - 320 carries, 2003 yards, 21 touchdowns, 26 catches, 252 yards, 5 touchdowns
  • Nakia Watson - 74 carries, 331 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 catches, 3 yards
  • Garrett Groshek - 42 carries, 194 yards, 2 touchdowns, 29 catches, 289 yards
  • Bradrick Shaw - 18 carries, 116 yards, 1 touchdown
  • John Chenal (FB) - 18 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 catches 15 yards
  • Mason Stokke (FB) - 15 carries, 51 yards, 2 touchdowns, 6 catches, 47 yards

2020 returning contributors

  • All but Taylor and Shaw, with the potential for Shaw to potentially seek a 6th years of eligibility, per a report by 247sports’ Evan Flood. ($)

2019 running back overview

2019 was exactly what we expected the Wisconsin run game to look like. Jonathan Taylor, some more Jonathan Taylor, sprinkle in a little Nakia Watson and Garrett Groshek, but then another heaping helping of Taylor.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor finished off his prolific career by breaking as many records and getting as high up the career rushing list as he could, and did all he could to win the Badgers a Rose Bowl, but fell just short, despite surpassing 2,000 rushing yards for the second straight season. I hope Badger fans didn’t take for granted how talented Taylor truly has been for the past three seasons, and hopefully will continue to be in the NFL, wherever he ends up. He truly is one of the most special, if not the most, back the Badgers have had, from a talent perspective.

Nakia Watson came in from Texas with some legitimate fanfare as a recruit, and the limited amount we saw from the redshirt freshman was encouraging, showing the willingness to bang behind his pads and run with the power you’d expect from an upper 220 lbs runner. Garrett Groshek also continued to be what he has been for the past three seasons - Steady Eddy and Mr. Reliable in whatever situation Wisconsin asks of him.

John Chenal and Mason Stokke split the fullback duties admirably, and both had their high points of the season. While thankfully the position is celebrated by us here at Bucky’s 5th Quarter and throughout the Badger fan base - the position is largely a thankless job only pointed out when a mistake is made. Neither of these two players are exceedingly talented or special in their roles, but the workman like approach they bring to the position gets the job done.

2020 running back preview

The Badgers will have several options to choose from when looking to the spring at who their starting tailback could be.

Nakia Watson likely will and should have first dibs at the top spot. He played well when called upon, and is likely “the dude” moving forward. Groshek will likely continue to be the third down-obvious passing down back, as his prowess in pass protection has kept him on the field since he was a freshman. These two as a group are good enough to compete in the Big Ten and operate the offense. They combined likely won’t come close to the production Badger fans have become accustomed to seeing, but given who they’ve got at the position for next year, they’ll be fine.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oregon vs Wisconsin Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The group of guys behind these two will be the most interesting to watch, to me. Isaac Guerendo is a track guy who found his way onto the field a couple of times this season, and the coaching staff has made it clear they want to get him the ball. Julius Davis redshirted a year ago, and the local product from Menomonee Falls should likely push for carries as well.

Name to watch for 2020

Isaac Guerendo seems to be the most intriguing realistic option at the position. A former Indiana state 100m track champion, Guerendo has the speed to make defenses pay for mistakes, and his ability makes him a home run threat anytime he touches the ball.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I don’t expect a huge role for him, maybe as a kick returner and a change of pace running back, but his contributions could help alleviate the lesser number of chunk/explosive runs created from the run game.

2020 spring depth chart projection (2020 eligibility)

  • Runningback: Nakia Watson, Garrett Groshek, Isaac Guerendo, Julius Davis
  • Fullback: Mason Stokke, John Chenal, Quan Easterling