Running wild

Anthony Davis leads a corps of extremely talented running backs. Part six of a 14-part series.

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Junior Anthony Davis is one of the most prolific college football players in the nation. Davis has fun for 3,021 yards in two seasons as Wisconsin's featured tailback, more than any other returning running back in the country. A preseason All-America selection, Davis has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored 24 touchdowns in two seasons. He is an extremely quick and fast runner with superb vision. Davis picks his holes fantastically well and makes people miss with the best of them. Davis not a big back by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been remarkably durable and surprisingly apt to break tackles.

 

Anthony Davis had an exceptional fall camp and looks poised to make good on the preseason All-America accolades he received from some publications. Davis looks far stronger than in his first two seasons and he appears even faster and quicker than before. He hops, darts, side-steps and dances through the hole as well as any player in the nation and he has an extra gear that consistently leaves defenders trailing. Perhaps the most intriguing facet of his game this fall, though, is his hands. Davis caught six passes for 48 yards last season and did not catch a pass his redshirt freshman year. However, it would not be surprising if Davis topped his career receiving totals entering this season in a single game at some point this year. Davis displayed very good hands and, just as when he is running the ball, he is extremely dangerous in the open field. Davis is a truly special player, a dynamic talent that is the engine for the Badgers offense.

 

Sophomore Matt Bernstein returns as the starting fullback. He is a dominating blocker who packs a wallop at 273 pounds. Bernstein's hits reverberated throughout the field of play. He may be the best lead blocker in the Big Ten. Bernstein, however, is much more than a brutal blocker. He has good hands and has the potential to be a threat as a short-yardage runner. In his college football debut last season against Fresno State, Bernstein carried the ball five times for 23 yards and scored two touchdowns. He finished the season with just 66 yards and three touchdowns, but he showed flashes of what he could become as an inside runner.

 

The only other fullback on the fall camp roster was sophomore Greg Root, who converted from linebacker in the spring. Root is a big, physical player with solid skills as a short yardage runner and pass catcher. He provides quality depth behind Bernstein.

 

Sophomore tailback Dwayne Smith would be a star feature back on most every team in the country. At Wisconsin he will serve as a top reserve and will likely thrive spelling Davis. Smith is a fast and powerful back with good all-around skills. As a true freshman last season, Smith ran for 552 yards and six touchdowns and topped the 100-yard mark in two games. He had a great fall camp, displaying good speed and vision through the hole. His hands out of the backfield were shaky at times, but Smith looked improved as a receiver and, like Davis, is a big-time threat when he gets the ball in the open field.

 

Junior Jerone Pettus and redshirt freshman Booker Stanley are neck and neck for the No. 3 running back position. Pettus is a quick, scatback type who will serve as a reserve running back and possibly as one of the team's kick returners. He was a productive player for the Badgers two seasons ago, but played sparingly last season behind Davis and Smith.

 

Stanley is a superb athlete with solid all-around skills. With Davis and Smith firmly ahead of him on the depth chart, Stanley is unlikely to receive many carries, but he is yet another solid weapon for the Badgers.

 

Another redshirt freshman, Phillip Fuller, provides added depth and will play on the scout offense this fall. As is thematic with the Badgers running backs, Fuller has a good burst, solid vision and good hands out of the backfield.

 

Freshman Michael Turner is an extremely fast athlete who needs to get stronger but flashes a lot of potential. He will likely redshirt and play with the scout offense.


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