Spring Football Preview: Tailbacks

Badger Nation's spring football preview continues with a look at the tailback position.

The Badgers have a real logjam at the tailback position, and it's hard to imagine there not being at least one position change this spring. Coach Barry Alvarez has always stressed finding ways to get his most talented athletes on the field, and there is some tremendous talent buried in the tailback depth.

Here is a look at the UW tailbacks heading into spring football, which begins March 6. This is the second installment of BadgerNation.com's Spring Football Preview:

PLAYER TO WATCH: ANTHONY DAVIS

It's hard to imagine after everything Anthony Davis has accomplished in the UW program, his career is only half-over (assuming he will stay four years). Davis had his ups-and-downs last season, with the obvious lowlight being the stabbing incident that forced him to miss the Illinois game. But the numbers tell the story. Davis rushed for 1,555 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Davis has rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his career, and if his last few games are any indication, he's only getting better. If the Badgers have the type of winning season expected, Davis could be a legitimate threat to bring home UW's second Heisman Trophy in five years.

While there are plenty of very talented backups hoping for extended playing time next fall, Davis will be given as many reps as he can physically handle.

ON THE HOTSEAT: JERONE PETTUS

Many Badger fans have forgotten that less than two years ago, Davis and Jerone Pettus entered Madison calling themselves "The East Coast Connection," planning on splitting reps in their freshmen seasons.

It hasn't exactly turned out the way they envisioned. While Davis' career has blossomed, Pettus has been limited primarily to kick returns. He had just 11 carries for 26 yards last year. But Offensive Coordinator Brian White has raved about Pettus' potential from day one, and there aren't many players that work as hard as Pettus in the offseason.

Can Pettus pull everything together and make a bigger contribution next season? We'll begin to get the answers in a couple of weeks.

KEY BATTLE: BOOKER STANLEY VS. DWAYNE SMITH

There are few Division I programs in the country where Dwayne Smith would be the No. 2 tailback. The 5-11, 219-pound sophomore was extremely impressive in his true freshman season, rushing for 552 yards on just 110 carries, with six touchdowns.

Smith is arguably the most conditioned athlete in the program, and as a former valedictorian of his high school class, his intelligence and work ethic is phenomenal.

But waiting in the wings is Booker Stanley, who the Badger coaching staff liked so much in practice last fall, they nearly pulled the redshirt off him 11 games into the season. Luckily, Stanley chose to sit out the final four games of the year, setting the stage for a tremendous four years.

Stanley is going to give Smith a real run for his money as the No. 2 running back. With so much talent between the two of them, combined with Pettus and Phillip Fuller in the mix, it's hard to imagine there not being a position change this spring.

PREDICTION: One of the backup tailbacks will be moved to fullback to help shore up the depth at that position. The player most suitable for that switch is Smith.

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