The Wisconsin Badgers officially concluded spring camp last Friday night and now head into the summer months preparing for the fall.
While spring football is generally a time for self-improvement and overall development, the 15 extra practices also provide players the opportunity to step up and show the coaching staff that they warrant playing time come fall.
While the Badgers were confined to the McClain Center with ongoing renovations to Camp Randall, the offense was able to lay the foundation with new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram and multiple new position coaches on the staff.
Over the next two weeks, All Badgers will take a position-by-position look at some of the general takeaways from the spring and what it could mean for each position group come fall.
Previously covered positions:
After covering the quarterbacks and running backs earlier in the week, today we turn our attention to the fullbacks.
The Wisconsin Badgers have had tremendous success at the fullback position. Over the last decade, the Badgers have sent Derek Watt and Alec Ingold to the NFL, while Austin Ramesh had NFL opportunities but decided to end his career due to injury concerns. With a multi-year starter in John Chenal now off to give the NFL a shot as well, the Badgers entered the spring with some uncertainty at the position for the first time in a while.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, it appears as though this spring provided some answers.
Throughout spring practice, Verona (Wis.) native Jackson Acker earned the first-team reps at fullback and looked good as both a blocker and pass catcher. He caught multiple passes during the practices I was able to attend, and I think he has a ton of potential at the position.
A former high school running back, Acker could still provide the Badgers with a running presence as a fullback, but I was impressed with his abilities as a blocker and willingness to take on defenders considering he played the fullback sparingly in 2021.
Acker added some needed weight this winter, and according to the spring roster, he is up to 232 pounds. I would expect the redshirt freshman to be closer to 240 pounds come the fall, and I think he could be a long-term option at the position for Wisconsin.
Behind him, walk-ons Riley Nowakowski and Garrison Solliday are the other fullbacks on the roster. Nowakowski actually spent most of the spring as a tight end with the Badgers suffering through injuries at the position, while Solliday was primarily a fullback with the second-team group.
Overall, I think Nowakowski will see the field at fullback at times next season. Also a former high school running back, he is a good athlete and moves well for a player of his size. While Nowakowski does not have as high of a ceiling as Acker, I think his versatility at fullback and tight end will make him a valuable contributor in 2022.
Solliday put together a solid spring from what I saw, but I believe Acker and Nowakowski are a step ahead of him on the depth chart, and barring injury, I do not see the Badgers having to use three fullbacks all that often. Solliday is a prime candidate to play special teams next season after showing the staff that he is more than capable this spring.
Projected depth chart:
- Jackson Acker (RS Freshman)
- Riley Nowakowski (RS Sophomore)
- Garrison Solliday (RS Freshman)
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