Spring preview: Running backs

Wisconsin faces the hefty task of replacing Brian Calhoun at tailback

Starters returning: Junior fullback Chris Pressley (3 starts in 12 games; 3 carries for 5 yards and 0 touchdowns; no receptions)

Other key returnees: Sophomore fullback Bill Rentmeester (8 games; 6-27-0; no receptions), junior tailback Jamil Walker (9 games; 18-96-1; 1-0-0) and senior walk-on tailback Dywon Rowan (6 games; 13-34-1; no receptions).

Starters departed: Tailback Brian Calhoun (13 starts in 13 games; 348-1,636-22; 53-571-2) and fullback Matt Bernstein (3 starts in 4 games before season-ending injury; 6-22-1; no receptions)

Other key departures: Tailback Booker Stanley (13 games; 69-340-3; 7-64-0)

2005 position coach: Brian White

2006 position coach: John Settle

Spring storylines

At tailback the Badgers are starting practically from scratch. Gone is All-American Brian Calhoun, who is foregoing his senior season in favor of the NFL Draft. Gone is Booker Stanley, who was kicked off the team last month and faces trial on sexual assault and several other charges.

The competition for playing time at the position will be wide open this spring.

Two tailbacks return who spent time in the depth last year: Rowan and Walker. But they received minimal playing time, essentially serving in mop-up roles.

Walker has exceptional speed and good size, but he has been inconsistent in practices and has had a difficult time running with confidence and power. He has considerable talent, however, and the most experience of any returning player at the position.

Rowan is short in stature but has good size and packs a punch with his running style. He has been a terrific practice player the past two seasons and he could serve a role as a short-yardage runner.

Three redshirt freshman tailbacks bring quite a bit of potential to the competition.

P.J. Hill was exceptional early in fall training camp last year, and he might have challenged Stanley for the No. 2 spot before a broken leg ended his season and forced him to redshirt. He has a unique blend of speed, quickness, power and exceptional vision and instincts. He and Walker became the favorites at the position when Calhoun made the announcement that he was entering the NFL Draft. Hill has all the tools to be the team's workhorse, if he can show that he is the same player he was before the injury.

Dion Foster improved tremendously from fall camp to bowl practices last year. He is a tough between-the-tackles runner with good feet and instincts. He did not display breakaway speed, but is otherwise a complete runner who could become a featured back.

Last but certainly not least, Jerry Butler brings elite speed to the position. On a roster with plenty of speed last season, Butler was the fastest and quickest Badger. He was limited by injuries last year but when he had the opportunity in practice he displayed game-breaking potential with his ability to turn the corner and out-run pursuit angles. Has solid enough hands to be a dangerous receiver as well.

Fullback Rentmeester has played tailback in the past and could be used as a power running option, particularly in one-back sets. Rentmeester has good speed for a fullback and keen instincts. His specialty, though, will remain blocking. Rentmeester was solid in reserve last season, prior to an injury that stopped his freshman campaign prematurely.

Pressley, a converted tailback, is a ferocious hitter who can be like an extra offensive lineman in the backfield. A decent athlete for his size, Pressley had to take over for Bernstein prematurely last season and did a commendable job. Bernstein was arguably the best fullback in the nation before his injury, so there was a drop-off, but Pressley improved through the course of the year and was scary good at times, particularly in the Capital One Bowl.

Junior walk-on Josh Balts, who missed all of last season with an injury, and redshirt freshman walk-on Teddy Hanrahan will also play fullback this spring.

Badger Nation Top Stories