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How Wisconsin Football Plans to Move Forward Without Chez Mellusi

Wisconsin football head coach Luke Fickell details what life in the Badgers backfield will look like without Chez Mellusi.



Wisconsin football; Badgers running back Braelon Allen shows love for Chez Mellusi on touchdown vs. Purdue
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) makes a heart with his hands in honor of teammate Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (1) after Mellusi suffered an injury during the second half at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin football team’s 38-17 victory against Purdue in week four was bittersweet. Senior tailback Chez Mellusi suffered a devastating injury during the game, breaking his fibula and effectively ending his season.

Mellusi had been an essential part of the offense, providing an invaluable complement to star tailback Braelon Allen.

In Wisconsin’s new spread offense, the new coaching staff had reduced Allen’s rushing workload compared to previous seasons. Surprisingly, the Fond du Lac native had only one more rushing attempt through four games than his counterpart in Mellusi. 

Head coach Luke Fickell was cautious not to overload Allen with all of Mellusi’s carries, emphasizing the need to preserve his star tailback’s stamina so he could play his best ball late in the season.

Wisconsin Football Lost More Than a Talented Running Back 

The loss of Chez Mellusi also meant losing a significant leader on the Wisconsin football offense. 

Coach Fickell acknowledged the challenge of filling that leadership void and mentioned that Braelon Allen might need to step out of his comfort zone to take on a more prominent leadership role.

Fickell shared that he had personally discussed the changes with Allen, assuring him they wouldn’t overburden him with additional carries. The coaching staff would carefully plan and manage the distribution of carries among the remaining running backs.

During Allen’s tenure with the Badgers, he had seen Mellusi suffer serious injuries in the past, both of which ended his seasons prematurely. These injuries — by domino effect had taken a toll on Allen, who struggled with injuries of his own late in the season. 

Allen might have to take on a heavier load for Wisconsin football, but Fickell emphasized the importance of not overworking him. 

Who Fills the No. 2 Role for the Wisconsin Badgers at Tailback?

Sophomore tailback Jackson Acker from nearby Verona High School has now been promoted to the No. 2 tailback for Wisconsin Football following Mellusi’s injury. Acker initially joined the team as a tailback in 2021 before transitioning to fullback last season.

Through four games, Acker is the only running back other than Braelon Allen or Mellusi to garner carries. On the season, he has eight carries for 31 yards — primarily in garbage time. 

Luke Fickell also mentioned redshirt freshman Cade Yacamelli, a converted safety, as another tailback who would see increased playing time. Both Acker and Yacamelli will play important roles, and while Mellusi’s injury is significant, Fickell believes it won’t drastically change the team’s identity or approach.

In essence, the Wisconsin Badgers must adapt to life without Mellusi, distributing responsibilities among their talented running backs while ensuring Braelon Allen & his workload remain manageable to avoid overburdening their star player.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of, 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.