Wisconsin Badgers fans worst nightmares might come true on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. as star freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is questionable with an ankle injury.
He of the nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Taylor was just getting going when the injury bug hit him on Saturday as well, rushing for 73 yards on just 12 carries in a quarter and a half against the Illini.
It should be worth noting that the Badgers put up just 104 yards on offense without Taylor in the game, and it came against the statistically worst rush and overall defense in the Big Ten as well.
But, if there was a bright spot it was Taylor’s fellow freshman running back — Garrett Groshek.
He was second on the team with 51 yards on just 12 carries, as he split time with sophomore Bradrick Shaw. Shaw also had 12 carries, but amassed just 40 yards on his opportunities.
Groshek’s 51 yards were a career high, but it appeared there were more yards that could’ve been had with a quicker tempo behind his power running scheme.
Still, Groshek and Shaw bring a much more bruising style of running than Taylor does. The change in tempo was certainly noticeable and something of a concern from afar.
It doesn’t help that some of the other expected pieces to the puzzle have been missing for some time.
The expected budding star of the group, Pitt transfer Chris James, hasn’t seen action in three weeks and is listed as questionable for this game as well as of Monday morning. Fellow junior running back Taiwan Deal has never seen the field in 2017 and had a second ankle surgery last week that shut his season down for good.
Missing those parts hurts almost as much as missing Taylor.
Shaw doesn’t seem to be a feature back, much more suited to be the thunder (with a bit of speed) to Taylor’s lightning (with a bit of unexpected power too). Missing the first part of the equation didn’t work out too well last weekend.
With Taylor likely not to practice until late in the week, if at all, it will be a good time to get used to the style of Groshek and Shaw as the 1-2 punch. They certainly are more than capable of doing good work, but it does involve more work from the offensive line and more timing.
The good news is the coaching staff seems to see growth and plenty of potential in Groshek.
“Well certainly, we were excited when Garrett chose to come here,” Chryst said at Monday’s press conference. “At that time you saw a guy with the ball in his hands all the time. What he was going to be when he got here? Weren’t sure, but we knew he was going to be a good player.
“This spring, he switched over to running back. You know he did things in spring ball where you thought ‘okay, this is the spot for him.’ He takes coaching and continues to improve.”
Will that end in him starting on Saturday against Indiana? We’re guessing that Shaw gets the first crack, but don’t be surprised to see Groshek’s energy level spark something in this office.