Running Back Mailbag

With Wisconsin football opening up its 2008 fall camp in preparation for the season opener August 30th against Akron, Badger Nation opens up the mailbag an answers the pressing questions involving the Badgers. Today, we answer your running back questions.

What was the story behind Lance Smith's suspension and where do you think he's going to go now that the Badgers have kicked him off the team?

A recap for those who don't remember: Smith was suspended for UW's five road games last year by the university after Smith was arrested and charged with battery and disorderly conduct after an on-campus incident with his girlfriend. In the eight games he played, he shined, leading the team with six yards per carry.

He was originally suspended from the team in July 2007 for violated the student-athlete discipline policy and was reinstated to the team on August 6.

According to court records, Smith entered two guilty pleas when he was in court on October 23 and was put into Dane County's first-offense program in addition to having to perform community service. His contract with the program was set to expire on Dec. 19 but Smith failed to meet certain requirements relating to the program and his contract was terminated July 24.

In order for Smith to have those charges dropped, he would have had to fulfill all the requirements of the program but now, Smith faces up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $11,000.

Obviously, the issues facing Smith are large and serious. Whether under Alvarez or Bielema, Wisconsin has been known for giving players second chances but not many after that (i.e. Booker Stanley and Jamal Cooper). You can now add Lance Smith's name to that dubious list.

Smith is an extreme talent but it's obvious that a fresh start is in order for him. Bielema alluded to the fact that the coaching staff (along with Lance, his family and high school coaches) wants to see him succeed right away and were hinting that he would be transferring to an I-AA program. By doing that, Smith would not have to sit out a season and could play right away. More likely than not, this is what Smith will do.

What are the chances P.J. Hill gets injured again during the 08 season?

I'll think positive and say slim to none and that the worst thing that will happen to Hill will be he gets knocked out of a series or two because of the physical grind of the season.

Of course I say that with my fingers crossed while knocking on wood, as Hill hasn't exactly been able to stay injury free throughout his career. Forced to redshirt suffering after breaking a bone in his foot, Hill came back a year later and had a tremendous season, being named national freshman of the year after finishing seventh on the all-time NCAA freshman-rushing list with 1,569 yards. After he suffered a neck stinger against Illinois that season, however, Hill's production tapered off, including only 36 yards in the Badgers' bowl win over Arkansas.

Last season, Hill injured the same foot against Indiana and basically missed three-and-a-half games while recovering, allowing true freshman Zach Brown to step in and get the majority of the yards and carries. Starting with 132 yards performance in the Outback Bowl, Hill has made a comeback, showing that he's healthier than he has ever been at Wisconsin and participating in his first spring camp is only going to help him down the line.

How many carries do you think John Clay is going to get this season?

The biggest ovation of the entire spring game came when John Clay first touched the football, which shows just how exciting everyone is to see this guy play. Gaining 10 pounds of muscle in the off season and admitting to me that he basically slept with his playbook, Clay was out standing running the football throughout Wisconsin's 15 spring practices. He was able to run over people with his size and make people miss with his speed, agility and ability to change direction on a dime.

In his first live game action, Clay finished with 94 yards on 21 carries in the spring game, including carrying the ball 11 times for 67 yards on a single drive during the game, an impressive display nonetheless. Where Clay is falling short, however, is in his pass catching and pass protection, two areas that caused him to get an ear full on more than one occasion.

With Smith in the picture, Clay was probably destined to split time as the No.3 back, as the coaching staff was looking at Lance to split out as a receiver in some formations. With Smith now out of the picture, Clay should probably see time in short yardage situations and on third down, possibly getting five to 10 carries a game.

How is Erik Smith now going to fit into the equation?

Pegged as a sure redshirt a couple of weeks ago, Erik Smith's involvement with the Wisconsin offense might have dramatically increased now that Lance Smith is no longer on the roster.

Erik Smith certainly has the credentials of a standout running back. Coming from the talent-rich high school of Bolingbrook, Smith was the offensive MVP of his team, rushing for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns to lead his team a 7-2 mark.

It would be nice to have a freshman step right in and fill a huge void but the reality is that it doesn't happen too often. Smith has got to learn an entirely new offense and adjust to the college level. Will he redshirt now? Probably not but at this stage, I would not expect a huge impact.

Chris Pressley seems to be the unsung hero of the running back unit. How is he preparing for his final season as a Badger?

He is preparing for this season like every other Badger senior is: with a huge chip on his shoulder. Pressley was one of the many Badgers that were embarrassed by their shortcomings last season and he has emerged into a leadership role in hopes of guiding UW to its first BCS birth in school history.

During winter condition, Pressley worked with the offensive linemen in order to get bigger, stronger and more focused on his blocking assignments. Pressley felt that is he had the ability to move a big Wisconsin offensive lineman, he could move anybody in the Big Ten.

Pressley also spent parts of spring ball catching passes out of the backfield to be more than just a blocking back. Last season, Pressley began to show his range. He had a career-high five carries for 31 yards and his first career touchdown against Northern Illinois and his first touchdown catch against Ohio State.

With Pressley's new look and style, the Badger fullback is going to surprise a lot of people in the upcoming season.

Badger Nation Top Stories