Luke Fickell made it abundantly clear to the Wisconsin football recruiting department that improving the Badgers’ running back depth was atop the to-do list in the 2024 class.
To say they delivered might be an understatement.
On National Signing Day, the Wisconsin Badgers staff celebrated the fruits of their labor when the talented trio of Dilin Jones, Darrion Dupree, and Gideon Ituka officially put pen to paper.
Rivals National Recruiting service had UW’s running back class listed among the top five positional groups in the country. Not too shabby for their first complete recruiting cycle in Madison.
Perhaps the most promising narrative surrounding their additions is the complimentary skill sets they bring to the table. Jones is a more dynamic, fluid runner, Dupree has the running and pass-catching versatility, and Ituka is a bowling ball with wheels.
With Chez Mellusi returning next season, the incoming freshman will have every opportunity to learn from him and push for early playing time the moment they set foot on campus.
Wisconsin Football Has High Hopes for Its 2024 Running Back Class.
During an interview on Big Ten Network, Wisconsin football head coach Luke Fickell could hardly contain his enthusiasm and made some awful lofty player comparisons for the Badgers’ new running backs.
“Darrion [Dupree], his ability to play out of the backfield, to catch balls, his ball skills, in space, he has a really unique opportunity walking in the door here that he does some things different than anyone else we have,” Fickell told Mike Hall.
He continued his evaluation of the Wisconsin football team’s talented acquisitions with Dilin Jones, the highest-rated running back signee by the composite recruiting rankings.
“Dilin Jones, I think, is a guy that is going to be a difference maker,” Fickell said. “He’s just scratching the surface as well, he’s going to get bigger, he’s got a stride…He does kind of remind me of a, just thinking back to a Melvin Gordon,” he continued. “I know Darrion said that was his guy. I might compare him [Dupree] more to a Jonathan Taylor-ish.
“Dilin kind of reminds me of Melvin with his ability to stride and run, and I think they’re going to be a heck of a combination, those two guys.”
“I think they’re gonna be a heck of a combination, those two guys.”
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) December 20, 2023
College football recruiting is an imperfect science. But as Wisconsin Badgers fans know better than most, if there’s a position where young players can push for early playing time, it’s at running back.
That’s not to suggest someone from the freshman class will walk in and instantly become a 1,000-yard rusher, but Chez Mellusi will need at least one, if not two, other complimentary backs to offset his workload in 2024.
Darrion Dupree is the most logical fit from a skill set standpoint to slot into an immediate role. Wisconsin football showed a solid appetite for throwing to its running backs in Phil Longo’s offense.
The inherited personnel just didn’t allow that desired offensive component to flourish, but Dupree’s versatility should help create more mismatches against opposing defenses.
There’s also an avenue for Dilin Jones to earn work behind Mellusi. He’s a fluid runner who could offer some home run-hitting ability to offset Mellusi’s between-the-tackles style.
No matter how things shake out, the Wisconsin football program has plenty to be excited about in its running back room moving forward — and it’s clear the coaching staff feels like they found some difference makers on the recruiting trail.
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