Spring practice is still in full swing and with that comes opportunities to hear from the various position groups for Wisconsin Badgers football. Earlier this week, running backs coach Gary Brown spoke to the media as did Jalen Berger and Isaac Guerendo. Here’s a recap of some of the notable things each had to say in their time with the media.
The conversation with new coach Gary Brown started with his initial impressions of each of the running backs he’s seen so far in spring practice.
“I think all four of those guys have a unique skill set...they all have the skill set to go out and gain yards in the offense we are going to run. I think all those guys can have a niche in what we want to do. Obviously, one is going to separate from the others when spring and fall clarify themselves but I am excited about all four of them.”
After that, Brown was asked about his attraction to the running backs job in Madison. A former NFL position coach, Brown would have likely had opportunities within another pro organization when he decided to return to coaching, but instead landed at Wisconsin.
“We all know that they’ve had a rich tradition of running backs. If you’re a student of the game you know that Wisconsin runs the ball... when I talked to coach Chryst it just felt like a great place for me to come back and reestablish myself as a coach in this game and I am just glad they gave me an opportunity to do that.”
Later on, Brown was asked about presumed starter Jalen Berger and the young group of backs that he leads. When Brown was asked about Berger and getting a young group prepped for a full college football season he had this to say.
“I think first with Jalen watching him, he’s a very smooth, intuitive runner. He has a lot to learn but he has the skills to be a three phase running back. When I say three phase I mean can run, catch, and pass protect. He has those skill sets, we just have to get it out of him... there’s going to be a certain standard that we set in the room that they all have to live up to. They are all going in the right direction, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
After coach Brown spoke to the media Berger and Guerendo joined to talk with them. Here is what each of them had to say. First, Berger was asked about the areas he needs to improve in to have a bigger role this season.
“I believe I have to work on pass protection. Most of the time I was in last year was in running plays and I think the defense knew that, so my area would be pass protection.”
After that, Berger was asked what he thought he did well and was proud of in his initial season at Wisconsin.
“I was excited with how I carried myself, being a freshman, 19 years old being out there with basically grown men. Just being out there playing I was really excited for.”
Later on, Berger was asked about his workload. In 2020, Berger never carried the ball more than 15 times a game. When asked about his ability to take on a bigger load, he had this to say.
“If they need me to do it, I’ll definitely do it. Whatever they need me to do I am pretty sure I can do it, so, yeah.”
As you can see, Berger is not a man of many words and allows his game to do most of the talking. So far, that has worked pretty well. After Berger, Guerendo joined to talk about his injury last year and how he will prepare to get back for this season.
“Last year I had a hamstring injury I’ve been kind of dealing with that on and off throughout my time here... there were points last year I could of came back but you’ve gotta be smart about that to not make it worse in the long run.”
After that, he was asked about his current status in terms of health.
“I’m feeling excellent honestly. I think we’re light in the running back room for the Spring so we’re trying to be smart with everything we’re doing, managing reps and stuff, but other than that I’m good to go.”
To round things out, Guerendo was asked about the camaraderie of the team after spending much of last year together but apart due to social distancing and how they can come more together in 2021.
“It’s crazy because there is some small stuff that you wouldn't think has an impact but having to lift one person per rack in the weight room all winter conditioning spreads out the bond. Being able to get back to lifting with a partner and stuff like that, those small connections make a huge difference.”
Overall, the running back room is a little light with just four backs available for spring practice but it sounds like they are making the most of their opportunities with the reps they have available. With it being such a key position at Wisconsin it will be important to watch how this group grows as the 2021 season gets closer.