News and notes: Wisconsin announced Thursday that junior tailback Dwayne Smith, the Badgers' leading rusher a year ago, will not play football again, due to a heart condition. Smith would have been Wisconsin's No. 2 tailback behind star Anthony Davis. Now, sophomore Booker Stanley moves up to No. 2 with talented true freshmen Chris Pressley and Jamil Walker in reserve…. As advertised, Anthony Davis returned to full health this fall and looked just as good, if not better, than he has in the past…The Badgers welcomed transfer Brian Calhoun, who can take the field in 2005…Greg Root held on to the No. 2 fullback spot.
Fall MVP: Davis. His exceptional speed and vision were on display throughout camp. It is obvious what Wisconsin missed with him out of the lineup last season: simply one of the most dynamic players in all of college football. In addition to his ability to dice up defenses with his groundwork, Davis is the best pass blocker of all the Badgers' tailbacks and his hands are improving.
Players on the rise: Smith's heart condition gave Pressley and Walker far more reps than they otherwise would have received. The newcomers, though, cannot be credited enough for how emphatically they took advantage of their opportunity. At 265 pounds, Pressley is a big back who can punish defenders. He could be a short-yardage weapon this season, but his surprisingly nimble feet speak to a greater role. Pressley has future standout written all over him.
So does his freshman counterpart. Walker is a big-time sprinter (10.4 in the 100 meters), and first and foremost a football player. Both Pressley and Walker look the part as well as any tailback, let alone a freshman. Despite a longer build (6-foot-2 and 205 pounds), Walker can run with power and deliver a blow, in addition to running by people. If Davis and Stanley stay healthy, Walker is not likely to receive many carries but he will play quite a bit. He is a starter on at least two special teams.
Questions answered: Anthony Davis' is healthy and ready for a big season … The Badgers have depth in bunches due to the rapid development of Pressley and Walker.
Questions remain: How exactly will Pressley and Walker be used? Could one or both work into a rotation with Stanley, regularly spelling Davis? Pressley could simply be a short-yardage back this year, while Walker could be used as a change-of-pace or third-down option.
A corollary: How many carries are the Badgers targeting for Davis? He has proven in the past that he can take about as many as Wisconsin is willing to hand out. But would the Badgers rather have their other three tailbacks more in the mix?
Davis has long wanted to get more involved in the passing game, but whether that is the case this season remains to be seen.
There is also the question of how many ways the Badgers can use Matt Bernstein, there battering ram of a fullback who also happens to be an adept runner and decent pass catcher.
Final note: Despite not being able to take a snap, Dwayne Smith will benefit the Badgers this season. He will serve an invaluable role by working with the running backs, particularly Pressley and Walker.
Look for Davis to have the best season of his career. Another 1,500-yard year, as he had two seasons ago, and a real run at the Heisman is not out of the question. He was averaging more than 200 yards a game before he got hurt last year and finished the season averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Fall camp wrap, running backs
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