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Post spring practice thoughts: running backs

A look at some of the news and notes from spring practice with the running backs

Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

The Wisconsin Badgers football team ended their spring practice period on Friday. After missing out on spring practice last year, having an extra 15 sessions proved to be extremely useful for Paul Chryst’s group. The Badgers didn’t have a spring game, or anything like that, but we were still able to glean a decent amount of information from the open practices and media availability.

Projected Depth Chart

Starter: Jalen Berger
Backup: Isaac Guerendo/Julius Davis/Brady Schipper

Schipper catching a pass out of the backfield in practice.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

Spring Standouts

Well, this one is easy as it is by default, Brady Schipper.

Overall, the running back room had a tough spring. Jalen Berger, Isaac Guerendo and Julius Davis were all banged up and held out of a large portion of spring ball. Wisconsin struggled to have enough bodies to even run plays, sometimes lining up Jack Dunn in the running back spot. That is a tough blow with a room desperate for reps, but Schipper sounds like he took advantage of the opportunity.

Schipper moved to the running back room and seemingly has been groomed to be the replacement to Garrett Groshek for the 2021 season. Groshek was a strong player in the third down running back role and was a great pass blocker who excelled in that area. I would expect the same role from Schipper this year, and possibly even more if the rest of the bodies in the room continue to be banged up.

Schipper is a quality player and does a lot of things well, but it will be important to get some guys ready so he doesn’t have to carry too much. This spring though, it sounds like Schipper got a lot of reps and got better which is all you can really ask for.

Berger saw limited action this spring.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

Questions we still have

I think there are two main questions here. First, who will be healthy enough to carry the football. That is a big question and a concerning one. The hope is that Jalen Berger is healthy and ready to take on a bigger role in 2021. He was kept on a pitch count of sorts in 2020, only getting 15 touches per game in each game he played, but he’ll need to up that number a lot in 2021.

In 2019, Jonathan Taylor averaged 22 carries a game, and I would imagine the hope is that Berger can take around that number this year. However, that was Jonathan Taylor, not a freshman running back who has played limited snaps. We’ll see how Berger holds up with the wear and tear of a full Big Ten season. Behind him though the concerns grow larger. Guys like Isaac Guerendo and Julius Davis are on the depth chart, but we’ve seen very little from them in their career. Guerendo has just 12 career rushing attempts, and Davis has just one.

That leads me to my next question, is there an outsider that may still work his way into a role? If the names listed above aren’t able to go Wisconsin may need to lean on incoming freshmen like Antwan Roberts or Loyal Crawford. Otherwise, the Badgers may need to bring in an outside name. Wisconsin has been active in the transfer portal so far. They lost out on Markese Stepp from USC, but they appear to be in the running for former Clemson 4-star back Chez Mellusi.

Whoever ends up being the ballcarriers in the room will have a lot on their plate. In 2019, Wisconsin got 463 carries from their running back room and the players that remaining from that group took just nine of the carries (Gurendo one, Schipper eight). It’s safe to say the group has a lot of carries to go around, but they first need to know who will be around and who will be healthy come fall.