On Tuesday evening, after weeks of speculation, Clemson running back Chez Mellusi announced he would be transferring to the University of Wisconsin. Mellusi, a former 4-star recruit and Army All-American, should bring some much needed depth to a UW backfield room without much established production. With the newest Badger officially announced, let’s take an updated look at how the depth chart might stand heading into the season.
RB1: Jalen Berger
The section of the depth chart that perhaps can be predicted with the most ease is the top. Berger showed in his freshman campaign that he has the chops to compete immediately in the Big Ten, displaying a tenacious ability to fight for extra yardage. The Newark, N.J. product averaged five yards a carry and was generally considered to be one of the few bright spots in a disappointing Badger pandemic season. Though he worked out of a committee in 2020, the departures of Garrett Groshek and Nakia Watson coupled with his strong debut campaign should make it all but a certainty that Berger will have the inside track to start on opening day against Penn State.
RB2: Chez Mellusi
Mellusi’s transfer brings huge value in that it provides the Badgers with an established option behind the younger Berger, something they had desperately needed heading into the summer. Mellusi was used sparingly at Clemson, but still racked up seven touchdowns and 427 rushing yards on just 71 career carries. Given his pedigree and production in limited minutes it won’t be a surprise if the ex-Tiger pushes Berger for the RB1 role.
RB3A: Brady Schipper
Brady Schipper has been the beneficiary of a spring camp that’s seen Berger, Isaac Guerendo and Julius Davis all hurt, allowing him to get the bulk of reps heading into the summer. Realistically we won’t have a great understanding of what Chryst has planned for the running back room after Berger and Mellusi until September, or he says otherwise, but the fact that Schipper has been tabbed to be a potential Groshek-esque third-down back replacement makes him a weak favorite to lead the rest of the pack.
RB3B: Isaac Guerendo
This is where the guessing really starts. Guerendo had the most Badger carries of any running back on the depth chart not named Berger last season (with 11, but still), but a spring injury prevented the Wisconsin staff from truly seeing where he stacks up in the backfield depth chart. A speedster who has shined on special teams in the past, Guerendo could provide an interesting option for the Badgers should they look to break off a big play against tired legs late in a game or drive.
RB3C: Julius Davis
Davis’ time at UW has been plagued by injuries, and this spring unfortunately saw another setback for the former Menomonee Falls star. After a redshirt freshman year, Davis was able to register his first carry as a Badger against Minnesota, but his latest knock this spring makes it unclear where he stands in comparison to the others on the backfield depth chart. His high school highlight tape shows explosiveness and plenty of physical talent, and if he stays healthy his role might grow significantly
RB3D/E/F/G/H/I’m just going to put all the freshmen here as I don’t know more than this:
Braelon Allen: Allen, who reclassified from the class of 2022 to arrive at UW this summer, recently revealed that he’d be playing running back in the upcoming season as opposed to safety or linebacker, and if his production is even close to what it is like in high school the Badgers will have a tremendous player on their hands. The 4-star prospect, on just 71 carries, posted an incredible 1,039 rushing yards (14.6 ypc!) as well as 23 total touchdowns this spring. Here’s hoping the powerhouse behind Fond Du Lac’s undefeated run can keep his momentum going heading into his first year as a Badger.
Jackson Acker: Though it’s not impossible the Verona native might switch positions at some point due to the versatility his size offers, Acker right now is grouped with the rest of the running backs in the incoming freshman class. A 3-star recruit and first team All-Area honoree, Acker will look to translate his strong high school numbers to the Big Ten.
Loyal Crawford: The third in-state running back product in the 2021 class, Crawford enjoyed a strong high school career as a four year member of the Eau Claire Memorial varsity squad. With a strong combination of shiftiness and speed, Crawford has big play potential written all over him.
Antwan Roberts: Hailing from Tennessee, Roberts adds another big frame to the freshman running back room at 6-foot-1 and 189 pounds. Spurning a number of offers closer to his home state to come to Madison, the 3-star recruit also has experience on the other side of the ball at defensive back.
Grover Bortolotti: Joining the Badgers as a preferred walk-on, the Whitefish Bay native is defined as an athlete on recruiting sites and has played a number of positions in his high school career, but his announcement graphic lists him as a running back and as a result he makes the depth chart projection.