Fall camp wrap: Running backs

Elite performers at top of depth could carry team

Depth chart

News and Notes: There was little movement in the depth. Brian Calhoun is the No. 1 tailback, followed by Booker Stanley. Jamil Walker will likely enter the season at No. 3, but Dywon Rowan is not far behind. True freshman Jerry Butler could also work into the depth… True freshman P.J. Hill looked very good before breaking a bone above his foot during UW's first full contact scrimmage on its fifth day of practice. He is out until at least mid-October and will now likely redshirt… Dion Foster, the third true freshman, is also labeled for a redshirt… Matt Bernstein is the No. 1 fullback, with Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester as co-No. 2. Josh Balts, who will also be part of the depth at fullback, did not take part in fall camp.

Fall MVP: Brian Calhoun. The former Colorado transfer is UW's most dynamic option on offense and clearly its most important player heading into the 2005 season. Calhoun proved a toughness and willingness to run between the tackles, and he was reasonably effective in doing so. When Calhoun gets on the edge as a runner, or gets into the open field as a receiver, he is terrific. Calhoun is very, very fast, but there are players who can match his sprinter's speed. What few can match is his quickness and his understanding of angles and route running. Calhoun has the best hands on the team and could end up the team's leading rusher and receiver.

Player on the rise: Booker Stanley. His fall camp was not as impressive as his spring workouts, but Stanley still looks poised to improved markedly after a disappointing and injured-marred 2004 season. The Badgers need the junior tailback to be an efficient runner, particularly between the tackles, to complement Calhoun's more prolific abilities. Calhoun's prowess as a receiver overshadows Stanley's above average skills as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

Questions answered: Calhoun looked more than capable of putting the weight of UW's offense on his shoulders, if necessary… Chris Pressley looked more than comfortable in adapting to his role as a fullback. He should develop into a dominant lead blocker.

Questions remain: Really, none of the questions asked in our Fall Camp Guide were answered definitively, though some assumptions can be drawn from how camp went.

Who will emerge as the No. 3 tailback? Jamil Walker is a big, strong, fast tailback with loads and loads of potential. But he needs to become more consistent and decisive. Rowan, a tough runner between the tackles, can provide the Badgers with each of those traits. Butler is probably the fastest player on the team, but a redshirt may be in order unless injuries necessitate his use.

How exactly will Wisconsin use Calhoun? How many carries can Calhoun, Stanley and possibly a third tailback expect? Calhoun did not win the punt returning job. That went to receiver Brandon Williams. But UW will still employ a heavy dose of Calhoun as a runner and receiver. How much of a load he takes on, relative to the reserve backs, will have to play out during the season. But a target of 25-28 touches a game seems likely. And Calhoun will get the ball in myriad fashions. The best-case scenario for UW is that Stanley and Walker or Rowan prove reliable and can handle a significant chunk of the work load.

Final thoughts: The Badgers' offensive backfield will be much more versatile than in past seasons in the Alvarez era. Calhoun gives UW a world of possibilities. Badger coaches have talked about the pressure he can put on a defense with his ability to line up as a receiver, and he can challenge coverage schemes just as much when he slips out of the backfield to catch passes. Stanley's multi-faceted skills also create opportunities for diversification. And Bernstein and Rentmeester can line up as H-backs in addition to their fullback duties and are also capable receivers.

When UW wants to go with a power game, it can line up any of its tailbacks behind Bernstein, one of the nation's best fullbacks, and watch him bulldoze linebackers.

Look for UW to try to give Stanley 10-15 touches a game, with perhaps a third back taking between five and eight carries a game.


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