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A Position Battle to Watch When Wisconsin Football Opens Spring Practice

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Wisconsin Football RB Julius Davis
Sep 17, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Julius Davis (32) rushes with the football during the fourth quarter against the New Mexico State Aggies at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. — March 25 is the final day of the “off-season” for Wisconsin football—because the Badgers return to the field for their first spring practice of the Luke Fickell era.

UW is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season that finished with a Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Despite that, the optimism surrounding the fanbase is at an all-time high.

This season, the Badgers have a new head coach, a re-tooled roster, and two high-profile coordinators hoping to pave the way to UW’s first Big Ten West title since 2019.

Although Wisconsin football has plenty of returning talent, several important position battles are worth keeping an eye on heading into spring practice.

Here’s one under-the-radar competition that fans should keep tabs on.

Wisconsin Football Will Start to Determine RB3 During Spring Practices

Admittedly, the No. 3 running back might not seem like a huge talking point to some, but it warrants a discussion for the Wisconsin football program. Especially when your top two backs—Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, have endured their fair share of injuries the past two seasons.

UW lost RB Isaac Guerendo to the transfer portal this offseason in search of additional carries. He finished 2022 with 64 carries for 385 yards (6.0 YPC) and five rushing touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 115 yards and a receiving touchdown.

His departure leaves the Badgers with several inexperienced options vying for time behind UW’s highly touted 1,2 punch. Who fills that vacancy is anyone’s guess at this point.

Meet the Candidates for Wisconsin’s No. 3 Running Back Job

This spring, Wisconsin football’s RB3 competition will feature redshirt senior Julius Davis, converted fullback Jackson Acker, converted safety Cade Yacamelli and walk-ons Brady Schipper and Grover Bortolotti.

Of that group, only Davis and Schipper logged snaps at RB last season (25 a piece). However, Acker played 176 snaps at fullback in 2022–so he’s no stranger to in-game action.

Once fall camp rolls around, three-star RB Nate White from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the only scholarship tailback addition in the 2023 cycle, will join the program and try to work his way into the mix for carries.

Casting an Early Prediction for UW’s RB3

Since most of next season’s carries already accounted for with Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi returning, establishing depth is all Wisconsin football needs in 2023–especially with some of the potential RB targets the Badgers are pursuing in the 2024 recruiting class.

Perhaps I’m being a pessimist, but I think UW’s next workhorse tailback still needs to be added to the roster when Allen ultimately declares for the 2023 NFL draft.

So the RB3 spot boils down to which players can be the most serviceable when their number gets called?

For me, those players are Julius Davis and Jackson Acker.

Davis, a Wisconsin native, hasn’t lived up to his lofty expectations, carrying the ball 35 times for 200 yards (5.7 YPC) in four seasons with the program. That said, he’s the most experienced returning option and has performed well when given opportunities. Can he put it all together in his final season in Madison?

And there’s Acker, a Verona native who is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, and is a terrific athlete with some burst for his size that could be an excellent between-the-tackles option in short-yardage situations.

Between the two, Luke Fickell and running back coach Devon Spalding should be able to get enough production from in-house options for its lightly used RB3 spot.

Does Wisconsin Football Need Another Running Back?


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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of BadgerNotes.com, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.

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