MADISON - Alec Ingold’s versatility and athleticism were two of the main things that attracted Paul Chryst as coach of two different college football programs, a main reason why the Badgers could foresee him as a college linebacker.
As of this week, the Badgers now see him on the other side of the ball.
“I got scout team player of the week playing linebacker and 10 minutes later I got switched to fullback,” said Ingold. “I was a little confused. It definitely was a little weird. It’s a learning curve, but I said to go with it and learn the position.”
The true freshman from Green Bay was one of fall camp’s nice surprises. A high school quarterback at Bay Port, Ingold appeared to successfully transition to inside linebacker, even getting repetitions with the top unit when injuries started to pile up.
“Towards the end of camp the defense caught up to me,” said Ingold. “I wasn’t really as fast as I used to be. There were more calls, more stuff that was put on my plate, so I definitely could have used that redshirt year to learn it all.”
The decision to move Ingold was made when Wisconsin’s depth at tailback was suddenly put into question. The Badgers had lost four-star tailback Jordan Stevenson prior to the season when he failed to pass admissions, moved redshirt freshman Caleb Kinlaw to defensive back and saw starter Corey Clement miss two straight games with a left groin injury.
On the flip side, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda saw freshman Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr emerge as reliable inside linebackers. And with multiple linebackers committed in the 2016 class, UW felt Ingold would be better utilized elsewhere to get him on the field quicker.
“It’s a learning curve,” said Ingold. “They told me to keep an open mind, but for right now it’s permanent. I’m expecting to stay on offense unless it doesn’t work out.”
While learning linebacker was completely out of the box for Ingold, he does have a level of comfort running the football. As a senior, Ingold averaged 178.8 rushing yards per game, totaling 2,324 yards and 29 touchdowns on a season where he was named the Wisconsin Associated Press high school football player of the year.
“I feel really comfortable and it’s a really familiar thing for me to run the football,” said Ingold. “Right now it’s really fun to learn the offense. The play calling is similar to what I’ve been doing the last four years. Hearing what my role is and knowing what to do is very helpful.
In the short term, Ingold is working at tailback and will likely redshirt unless more injuries occur. He is on the travel roster with the goal to develop into a fullback who can be successful in short-yardage situations, pass protections and pass catching.
“I think anytime that you're dealing with a smart player, it's lot easier for him to do that,” running back coach John Settle said. “It just goes to show you our system is not really complicated. Guys have been able to come in, learn what we're trying to do, then have enough athletic ability to do that. He's shown that in the last week and two days.”
While the move is barely a week old, one of the biggest sounding board for Ingold has been Watt, who made the same switch from linebacker to fullback early in his career.
“Derek has definitely brought me under his wing with the transition,” said Watt. “He’s been a great supporter and a guy I look up to for sure. He gets it. He knows what I’m going through, so he’s helped me a lot.”