Spring wrap-up: Running backs

Part 5 of BadgerNation.com's 11-part look at the 2005 spring football practice season

News and notesBrian Calhoun and Booker Stanley split time with the first team at tailback while Matt Bernstein returned to his normal role as the first-team fullback.

Reserve tailback Jamil Walker, who will be a sophomore this fall, did not participate in spring workouts due to a shoulder injury, leaving walk-on Dywon Rowan as the only other tailback.

Redshirt freshman Bill Rentmeester established himself as a the No. 2 fullback, followed by Chris Pressley and Josh Balts. Rentmeester and Pressley regularly worked in at tailback as well. Bernstein did so sparingly.

Spring MVP — Brian Calhoun: needing to replace Anthony Davis, having the junior transfer from Colorado in tow is an incredible luxury. After spending last fall on the scout team while he sat out his transfer year, Calhoun displayed an exceptional amount of skill and athletic ability this spring. He is a nifty runner who is quick and elusive enough to make the initial wave miss. Once he gets into the clear, there are few players who can match his speed in the open field.

Calhoun is also a superb pass catcher. He runs excellent routes and has very soft hands. He showed the potential to be the most versatile offensive weapon the Badgers have had in the Alvarez era.

Calhoun is at his best when he can get on the perimeter of the defense, whether via the run or the pass, but he also has the ability to run between the tackles.

Springing ahead — Booker Stanley was rejuvenated this spring after struggling through a very difficult sophomore campaign last fall. He had a spring in his step that was missing last year, due to a turf toe injury that affected his confidence. He also did a much better job finding running lanes and making cuts than he did last fall

Stanley entered spring as the pronounced No. 1 tailback and split reps with Calhoun throughout the 15 practices. And though Calhoun is expected to be the feature back, Stanley will serve as a nice compliment. He is better between the tackles than Calhoun and he is also a good pass receiver out of the backfield.

Bill Rentmeester looks set to follow in the steps of a very strong UW pedigree at fullback, from Mark Montgomery to Cecil Martin to Chad Kuhns to current fullback Matt Bernstein. Rentmeester is quick and fast enough to play tailback and he may end up being the best pass receiver UW has had at fullback during Alvarez' time in Madison. He is also a very sound, physical blocker.

At the very least, Dywon Rowan looked like a future scout team MVP. But the sibling of cornerback Levonne Rowan ran tough between the tackles, displaying enough ability that he could emerge next fall as a viable option in short yardage.

Pressing questions — A team can never have too many tailbacks, and the Badgers' depth at the position is paper thin. UW needs a healthy Walker, or an incoming freshman such as Dion Foster or Jerry Butler, to emerge in the fall. Calhoun and Stanley are good, but the Badgers need more insurance.

Looking ahead — It might not quite be the equivalent of Terrell Fletcher and Brent Moss, but Calhoun and Stanley are a nice tandem that may be the most versatile pair the Badgers have had. Their abilities to get out of the backfield and catch passes could give defensive coordinators fits. Calhoun is capable of lining up all over the field and it would not be surprising if he led UW in rushing, receptions and receiving yards this fall. He may also return punts and/or kicks.

Expect Bernstein to get more rest than he has since his freshman year. Rentmeester looks more than capable and working him onto the field will allow Bernstein, who should be one of the best fullbacks in the nation, to remain fresh throughout the game. And in a pinch, Rentmeester could play tailback. Like Bernstein, he is a decisive, tenacious player, whether lining up a lead block or running the ball. Rentmeester's added dimension as a high caliber pass receiver gives UW more options and opportunities for getting him on the field.

Despite the fact that Bernstein is the only experienced fullback the position is one of UW's deepest. Chris Pressley will likely enter fall camp as the third option. He is still developing as a fullback, but the sophomore is a willing and able blocker with good size and strength. He does not have the speed to play tailback with regularity, but he could certainly serve as a short yardage option down the road. Josh Balts is a competent, serviceable backup, somewhat of a smaller version of Greg Root. True freshman P.J. Hill will add to the fullback/big tailback depth in the fall.


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