Future Badger Breakdown: Four-Star RB Jalen Berger
The Wisconsin Badgers reeled in a huge verbal commitment for its 2020 class when four-star running back Jalen Berger publicly announced his decision to commit to the Big Ten program during the All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.
After not locking down a back for assistant John Settle's room for most of this recruiting cycle, UW landed a player who now could be utilized in a variety of different ways at the next level. Just how quickly the New Jersey product acclimates to the college game will be something to watch, especially with a talented position group returning despite Jonathan Taylor declaring for the NFL Draft earlier this month.
AllBadgers.com unveils its "commitment capsule" of Berger's decision, breaking down his basic info, star rankings, our coverage of the back and more insight from Don Bosco Prep head coach Dan Sabella.
Public commitment date: Jan. 4, 2020 during All-American Bowl
Ht./Wt. (according to Hudl profile): 6'0, 190 pounds
Hometown: Ramsey, N.J.
New number of Wisconsin 2020 scholarship commits: 20
Accolades: 2020 All-American Bowl participant
- 247Sports composite rankings: Four stars, 0.9494 rating; No. 109 player in the nation; No. 11 running back in the nation; No. 2 player in New Jersey
- 247Sports: Four stars, 91 rating, 6.0 rating; No. 200 player in the nation; No. 19 running back in the nation; No. 6 player in New Jersey
- Rivals: Four stars; No. 49 player in the nation; No. 3 all-purpose back in the nation;
- ESPN: Four stars, 83 rating; No. 13 athlete in the nation; No. 25 player in the region; No. 5 player in New Jersey
Coverage of Berger from AllBadgers.com
- Wisconsin commits, target at 2020 All-American Bowl
- Jalen Berger commits to Wisconsin
- Coach on 2020 Wisconsin Commit Jalen Berger: "He Lived Up to All the Hype”
Why Berger Chose Wisconsin:
From his interview during the 2020 All-American Bowl broadcast on NBC:
"I just felt very comfortable at Wisconsin. Built a great relationship with Coach (John) Settle and (head coach Paul) Chryst, and the o-line is just amazing, so the University of Wisconsin for me."
From the Coach
As noted in AllBadgers.com's piece earlier this week about Berger, Sabella entered his first year coaching at Don Bosco Prep in 2019 but had seen the back perform quite well in firsthand experience three years prior when he led rival Paramus Catholic.
“I mean he had a monster game against us," Sabella told AllBadgers.com on Monday. "I want to say he went over 200 yards, and that was like his introduction to varsity football at Don Bosco so I was very aware of him. I was real excited obviously when I got the opportunity to come to Don Bosco to be able to coach him and be on the same team with him.
“He lived up to everything. I knew about him. I knew what type of player he was. He lived up to all the hype.”
Sabella noted that Don Bosco Prep runs a multiple spread scheme on offense and that the staff moved Berger around. As seen in the Hudl film below, that could include being in the backfield, in the slot running fly or jet sweeps or on the outside catching passes.
"That was one of the things I think that, hopefully he's going to be able to do at the college level as well is the kid has phenomenal hands," Sabella said. "I mean he catches the football so effortlessly and is such a smooth route runner that we just felt like we had to try to take advantage of that.
“We thought by forcing defenses to kind of have to guess where he's going to be -- ‘Is going to be in the slot? Is he going to be out wide in ‘X’ (receiver)? Is he going to be in the wing? Is he going to be in the backfield? Is he going to start on the left side and motion to the right side?' -- we tried to take advantage of that. And because he's so talented and able to, with his speed and his route running ability, obviously just figuring out ways to get the ball in his hands. Then when you want to be able to use him as a decoy a little bit to free up other guys, that's another advantage as well."
AllBadgers.com asked Sabella if there was one play from this past season of Berger that stood out.
"I thought in our first round playoff game against Bergen Catholic," Sabella said. "We were up two scores at the time, but it was in the third quarter. He broke a jet sweep. I think it was 78 yards. It was a long run that kind of -- I don't want to say put the game away for us -- but kind of gave us some breathing room. It was a play where he got on the perimeter, and a couple guys had some angles on him that he just turned the corner and made a guy or two miss.
"Bergen Catholic has some talented players as well, but a couple guys who had angles on him, he just ran right by them. Bergen had beaten us earlier in the year, and I thought that was a play that I just remember as right after he scored, I said, 'There's only a couple guys at the high school level who could make that type of play. We just saw it."
From Sabella: “Just his overall explosiveness. He can make things happen with the ball in his hands. He's an instinctive player, too. He’s got great football instincts. He processes things very well, and that’s a great combination to have along with the athletic ability that he obviously possesses.”
Potential Areas of Improvement Once Berger
From Sabella: “I think that any coach, we all want our kids to block a little bit better. I mean pass protection. I know Wisconsin is going to ask their backs to do that. I'm sure that's something that he’ll spend a lot of time getting better at, and just adjusting to Big Ten football. It's the same deal. He's a gifted athlete, he's obviously played against real good (competition). Now you're going on and you're playing in college, just getting used to a new offense and a lot more detailed defenses and preparation, all that stuff. But he'll do great with that because he enjoys it and that's what he wants to be a part of so I don't see that being too much of an issue for him.”