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Wisconsin spring football: running back position overview

A look at where the running back room stands following spring football for the Wisconsin Badgers.

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. 

After doing a deep dive on the quarterbacks Monday, today we turn our attention to the running back group. 

Wisconsin running backs Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo missed the spring recovering from injuries (Credit: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Senior running backs Chez Mellusi (left) and Isaac Guerendo (right) missed the spring recovering from injuries. 

With Chez Mellusi, Isaac Guerendo, and Brady Shipper all unable to participate this spring, I think the Badgers got as much out of the 15 spring practices as possible at running back.

As expected, star tailback Braelon Allen worked with the first-team offense, and the sophomore was much more involved in the passing game this spring. Wisconsin utilized him as a receiving threat out of the backfield frequently in the practices I saw, and I believe that he is capable of tallying double-digit reception numbers next season. Allen is a tremendous athlete with good hands, so finding new ways to get him in space makes sense.

Allen looked healthy and rattled off multiple long runs this spring as well. It is hard to take too much away from spring practice because tackling was not 100% live, but it was nice to see the 240-pound back with a clean bill of health. He did record a couple of fumbles when I was in attendance, but I believe that they were a result of him pulling up at contact while the defender continued to attack the ball. Wisconsin was rightfully very cautious with Allen this spring, and blew plays dead quickly when he was involved. If the fumbles continue into the fall, it becomes a larger story, in my opinion.

Behind Allen, Julius Davis received more opportunities this spring. The junior from inside the state ran well, and I think that he proved that he is capable of contributing next season under new running back coach Al Johnson. While I believe that Mellusi and Guerendo are still ideally No. 2 and No. 3 on the depth chart if healthy, Davis should be a reliable option for Wisconsin next season.

Davis missed Friday's final practice with a wrap on his wrist, but I think that his performance this spring set him up nicely for the future and was big for his confidence heading into the fall. The Badgers needed to build depth at running back, and I think Davis took advantage of the extra reps.

Walk-on Grover Bortolotti also saw time in the backfield at times with the second unit and looks like a player that should be able to help the team down the road, specifically on special teams.

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The lingering question at running back heading into the off-season though is the injury status of Chez Mellusi, Isaac Guerendo, and walk-on Brady Schipper. While the trio maintains that they hope to be available for the fall, that is not a given. Guerendo has had multiple injuries during his time with the Badgers, and Mellusi is attempting to return under a year removed from a major knee injury.

Wisconsin could really use the playmaking ability of both Mellusi and Guerendo in particular next season, but if not, Davis appears poised to step up if called on.

During Thursday's press conference, head coach Paul Chryst did not sound interesting in adding another player to the room via the portal. Instead, Chryst noted that Mellusi, Guerendo, and fellow injured senior Brady Schipper "will be able to help us" in the fall. 

Running back room at a glance...

Position coach: RB coach Al Johnson

Projected depth chart:

  1. Braelon Allen (Sophomore)
  2. Chez Mellusi (Senior) 
  3. Isaac Guerendo (RS Senior)
  4. Julius Davis (RS Junior)
  5. Brady Schipper (RS Senior)
  6. Grover Bortolotti (RS Freshman)

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