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Isaac Guerendo adds speed and strength to Wisconsin's return game

Senior running back Isaac Guerendo discusses his role as the primary kick return specialist, a position where he excelled in high school.
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The Wisconsin Badgers have found success with their kickoff return unit the past handful of seasons, including a 91-yard touchdown return from Stephan Bracey in 2021. 

However, with Bracey down with an injury during spring practice and missing all of fall camp, the Badgers needed to find a capable replacement to handle kickoff returns.

After the Illinois State game, it appears Wisconsin has found an answer in senior running back Isaac Guerendo. 

A third-string tailback behind Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, Guerendo is back to 100% health and is still arguably the fastest player on the roster. At six feet tall and 223 pounds, he has a physique of a bruising tailback but can top out at 23 miles per hour in the open field. 

A former track star and wide receiver at the high school level, Guerendo has battled injuries during his career with the Badgers, limiting him to only 15 games before this season. However, Guerendo has been explosive when healthy for Wisconsin. 

In 2019, his first season as a running back, Guerendo recorded a 49-yard kickoff return against Minnesota. 

Then after missing most of 2020, Guerendo broke off an 82-yard rushing touchdown against Eastern Michigan.

After returning kickoffs in high school, Guerendo is once again acting as a return man this season for the Badgers. Against Illinois State, the former 3-time Indiana state track champion broke off a 33-yard return to open the second half and give the Badgers great field position, ultimately culminating with a Wisconsin touchdown to put them up 24-0. Guerendo found a crease behind some great blocks by Jack Eschenbach and Jackson Acker on the play and was able to showcase his speed down the sideline. 

When asked about returning kicks for the Badgers in 2022, a role he hadn't held since his prep days, Guerendo said, "Obviously, you know taking a couple of years off it's something that I want to get back into. The coaches trusted me to be in that position. It's reassuring to me, so if I can return kicks to the best of my ability, that's something that I want to do for sure."

Coming off a foot injury that derailed his 2021 season, and now a fifth-year senior, Guerendo is one of the older players on the roster, and he is trying to make the most of all of his touches, whether that be in the return game or as a running back. "Just being out there for the first time in a very long time, it was a great feeling. So feeling like I can contribute in any way, that's really my goal right now," Guerendo told reporters after the Illinois State game. "It's just, whether it's special teams, offense, whatever position they put me in, [I'm] trying to contribute as much as I can."

Not only did Guerendo show some burst on his lone return of the night against the Redbirds, but he also had three touches on offense Saturday night. Guerendo scored a short rushing touchdown and also recorded a 6-yard reception. 

A versatile playmaker with electric speed, the Badgers are excited by what Guerendo can bring to the team in general, making it important to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. During fall camp, offensive coordinator Bobby Engram had this to say about the senior tailback out of Indiana:

"I'm excited for Isaac. He is a big, strong, explosive guy. He's another piece that he's a running back who has some receiving skills, so No. 1 he has worked really hard to get back, and he's a consistent worker that can help us win some games for sure."

Just one game into the season, Guerendo is already making an impact for Wisconsin this year. Capable of helping the team on special teams and offense, it may just be the beginning for the speedster if he can stay healthy in 2022. 

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