Whether or not the weather will cooperate, the Wisconsin Badgers have rung Spring in with a few practices to date. Along with that we continue to dive in to every position and give you the need-to-know information for the 2018 version of the Badgers.
Up today is a look at a position that has been the cornerstone of UW football for the better part of 30 years now — running back.
Running Back Preview:
Returning Starter(s): Jonathan Taylor (So.)
Other Players to Know: Chris James (Sr.); Taiwan Deal (Sr.); Bradrick Shaw (Jr.); Sam Brodner (So.); Garrett Groshek (So.)
Reason to Watch This Position: Loads of Competition
Last year we all were wondering if Bradrick Shaw would be the answer at starting running back or what would happen. It appeared Shaw, along with former Pitt transfer Chris James would be a capable 1-2 punch. Instead, injuries early in the season made that thought a distant memory and instead it was the freshman duo of Jonathan Taylor and Garret Groshek that did most of the heavy lifting in UW’s backfield.
Taylor likely isn’t going to see a lot of carries (if any at all) this spring, and it brings up an important point…who will be the No. 2 back behind him and how will this group shape up? James, Shaw and the man who can’t keep his ankles healthy to save his life — Taiwan Deal — are all vying for that role and have shown flashes of being a nice compliment to the starting running back. Don’t sleep on Groshek either, who started strong in his freshman season before breaking down later in the year. He’s likely ready to take on a bigger load if called upon.
Brodner may not be back until the Fall, so we’ll have to see how he fits in to this group along with 2018 signee Nakia Watson, but neither are needed parts to figure things out this spring. Overall, the Badgers have few holes to fill, but a lot to figure out in the rotation at running back this Spring.
Player to Watch: Chris James
Wisconsin thought it had one of the better transfer running backs in the country last season, and that may have been true. However, injuries forced James to the sideline and thrust Taylor in to the starting role. The rest, as they say, is history. James ended up playing in just nine games and recording 51 carries for 233 yards and one touchdown.
But, James is fully healthy and ready to make an impact in more ways than one. James may be the most well-rounded of UW’s running backs, so let’s see if he can regain the form that was there prior to his injury. It will also be interesting to see how he responds to challenges from a much more healthy group of running backs this offseason.
Projected Depth Chart:
RB1: Jonathan Taylor
RB2: Chris James
RB3: Bradrick Shaw