Every Saturday when the Cardinal and White hit the field to take on a new opponent it is almost certain that there will be an emphasis on the rushing game. While the Badgers have relied heavily on their trio of running backs to carry them throughout the season, there is another that the fans do not get the opportunity to see. Freshman Phillip Fuller doesn't get the chance to prove himself during game time, but has made a name for himself on the scout team.
Since the only time Fuller gets on the field is during practice, there is little evidence to show what he can do. Fuller, though, is the first player to earn the team's Scout Offensive Player of the Week award twice this season.
"Those awards are important because it just shows me that somebody is watching," Fuller said. "Everything that I do doesn't go unnoticed and somebody does respect that I'm going out there and playing hard every week."
Those that are taking notice include offensive coordinator Brian White and defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove. Both have worked with Fuller during practice and have seen his progress. White and Cosgrove agree that he brings a great tempo, speed, and work ethic to each practice.
"The only time I see him is against us in the scout teams so that's the only way I can evaluate him is what he does against us and he's doing a good job," Cosgrove said. "He's giving us a good look, he's worked hard, he's taking a lot of the reps, and he's giving us the look that we need."
The Irving, Texas native was one of the top-rated running backs in Dallas as he rushed for more than 4,800 career yards. During the fourth game of his senior season, Fuller went down with an ACL injury. This injury not only halted his high school football career but also set him back as he came into his first year at Wisconsin. Fuller redshirted this first season and found his spot on the scout team.
"I think of playing on the scout team as a positive," Fuller said. "I get a chance to play against the number one defense and I mean when I come off of being hurt like last year, it gives me a chance to better my skills every day. Last year I came here limping around, I could barely even run. I had to sit out practices but now this year everything is coming to me naturally."
White has also taken notice of Fuller's changes since his injury.
"He's really working at a really high level of intensity," White said. "He's a lot stronger and faster, and knows the offense a lot more. He's created a lot more awareness and he's more confident."
Though Fuller is gaining his strength back and making an impact on the scout team, he still has a lot of work to do to move up from his No. 5 spot on the tailback depth chart. All four of the players in front of him—Anthony Davis, Dwayne Smith, Booker Stanley and Jerone Pettus—are underclassmen.
"He's got to continue to make improvements, you know, get bigger and stronger," Cosgrove said. "Also, he's got to continue to work hard in the offseason in particularly, and I think he'll get a chance to compete next spring."
Getting a chance next spring might be tough as Fuller knows there is plenty of competition at tailback, but he uses this as incentive for improvement.
"I know the level that I can play at," Fuller said. "And I know if I just keep working hard every day, one day I'm going to get my chance and everybody's going to know who I am once I finally get my chance. But until then I'm just going to keep working hard."