For a running back renowned for his game-breaking talents, Brian Calhoun has adapted well to Wisconsin's power rushing attack. Witness his performance in the Badgers' gritty 14-5 victory over North Carolina last Saturday night. Calhoun carried the ball on 38 of Wisconsin's 75 plays, running for 171 yards and two touchdowns. In three games this season, the junior back, who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado, has rushed 92 times for 471 yards and eight TDs. "I'd prefer not to run him 35 times a game," says coach Barry Alvarez. "But when you're in a slugfest, you go with your best players."
An all-state running back in 2000 and 2001 at Oak Creek (Wis.) High, Calhoun opted to play in Boulder rather than in Madison--in part, he says, because he wanted to work with Colorado running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, a former All-America tailback for the Buffs. Bieniemy, however, left Colorado the next year, and though Calhoun led the team in rushing with 810 yards as a sophomore in '03, his coaches wanted to make him a wide receiver. "To this day, I don't really understand why," he says. After transferring to Wisconsin, the 5'10", 194-pound Calhoun spent 2004 on the scout team, where he impressed coaches by imitating the running backs that the Badgers would face each week. "He has incredible body control," says co-offensive coordinator Brian White. "He's like a ballet dancer at tailback."
Calhoun's emergence as a dominant runner has helped the Badgers, who host No. 14 Michigan this Saturday, get off to a surprising 3-0 start. As the schedule gets tougher in Big Ten play, Wisconsin will try to find other ways to get Calhoun the ball. "He gives us the ability to be creative," says Alvarez, who plans to line up Calhoun as a receiver on occasion--with Calhoun's full approval this time. "We haven't used a lot of the stuff we've designed for him yet, but you'll start seeing him move around very soon." --Mark Beech
After first leaving the state, Calhoun has found success closer to home.