Wisconsin football opens its season at Camp Randall on September 3rd where they’ll take on the Illinois State Redbirds. The Badgers are finishing up Fall camp and transitioning into game week, which means it’s time to get you prepped for what you should expect to see from each position group this Fall.
Next up is the running back room!
Depth Chart Projection (projected starter in bold)
Running back: Braelon Allen, Chez Mellusi, Isaac Guerendo
Fullback: Jackson Acker, Riley Nowakowski
2022 Position Preview
Death, taxes, and Wisconsin running backs carrying the offense. It’s no surprise that this will continue in 2022 for the Badgers. In 2021, Wisconsin entered the year with Chez Mellusi and Jalen Berger as the two primary ball carriers. To end the 2021 season, Wisconsin wound up with freshman breakout star Braleon Allen paired with Brady Schipper and Julius Davis. What a ride 2021 was for this group. The group lost 3 running backs from the program due to dismissal, including Jalen Berger, and also lost Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo to season-ending injuries. The outlook last year was “by committee” but this year there is no doubt in the room.
After his breakout season, Braelon Allen returns for his second season with the Badgers. Now 18, he’ll spearhead a deep and versatile room. Allen comes into the season averaging 6.82 yards per carry. He also led the team in rushing last season with 1,268 yards, which ended up being 3rd best in the Big Ten.
What makes Allen’s numbers more remarkable is the fact that Allen didn’t even start getting significant carries until the 4th game of the year where he had 18 carries and 131 yards against Illinois. Allen is widely regarded as one of the best running backs in the country entering 2022. He’s already been named to the Doak Walker watch list and named as an AP 2nd team All-American by the AP.
Chez Mellusi is also back and healthy for the start of the year. He’ll slot in at the spot behind Allen but should play a significant role in the offense. Mellusi went down with a season-ending injury vs Rutgers last year. He was having an up-and-down season to that point but he’ll provide much-needed depth to the running back room in 2021.
Mellusi was averaging 4.7 yards per carry last year and he probably figures to get anywhere from 12-15 carries a game in 2022 which should be enough to spell Allen who was worn down last year as the season ended. Mellusi was also named to the Doak Walker watch list entering this year.
Isaac Guerendo is returning from injury again and should have a role in the offense this season as well. To what degree that is, we’ll have to wait and see. We do know that Guerndo has a lot of speed and athleticism. In limited action last year, he scored an 82-yard touchdown against Eastern Michigan. He was injured during warm-ups at Illinois and never was able to make it back. Everything we know about Guerdeno is that he has all the potential in the world. He just needs to stay healthy to show that potential for a full season.
Redshirt freshman Jackson Acker should get the start at fullback entering the 2022 season. He replaces John Chenal from a year ago who has since moved on from the program after graduating. Acker was originally recruited as a running back, but due to depth issues last year, he made the switch to fullback.
Last year he appeared in two games and had 6 rushes for 34 yards. His switch to fullback has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Badger fullback Alec Ingold. His ceiling is high, but we also don’t know how often new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram will use a fullback. Behind him, former outside linebacker and redshirt freshman Riley Nowakowski would likely see any additional snaps.
Once again, the expectations for this room are high, as they should be. The group as a whole feels special and we haven’t even seen a game yet. In camp, Allen, Mellusi, and Guerendo all flashed while reporters were able to watch. Allen has set the bar very high for himself after last year and he’ll be needed to make the offense whole work this year.
It’s probably fair to assume that Guerendo and Mellusi won't see quite as many snaps as Allen, but they’ll also have their opportunities. It would be fantastic to actually see If Guerendo can be a gadget player. We’ve heard many times during his time with Wisconsin that he’s one of the better athletes on this team. I’d expect him to schemed into this offense as much as possible with screens, end-around, etc. Mertz needs to get the ball to the best playmakers on the field and I’d like to see if Guerendo can live up to his hype.
For Mellusi, Wisconsin needs him to be productive in the run game to keep Allen healthy. As effective as Allen was in 2021 as the lone back, a second back to keep a fresh rotation could go a long way in opening up the offense. The trio could be the best in the Big Ten this year and possibly the ticket to the Big Ten Title game if they stay healthy and productive.
As for others in the room, Julius Davis and Brady Schipper would be relied on if any one of the big three go down. Davis is another player that would be great to get going but has not been healthy over the course of his career. Hopefully this year he can find a role somewhere. As for the fullback room, we expect greatness at this position every year. That’s not going to change now or ever.
RUN. THE. DAMN. BALL.