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Wisconsin Football Running Back Room Season Outlook & Player Expectations

A quick look at the Wisconsin football running back room heading into fall camp and analyzing their individual expectations for the season.



Wisconsin Football running backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi
Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) and Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (1) have a laugh as part of Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Badgers Media Day 0853

With fall camp just around the corner for new head coach Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football program — BadgerNotes continues our rollout of position previews. We’ve only done QBs thus far.

But I want our position previews and season outlook write-ups to be different than a regurgitated version of what every outlet is putting out. 

I want to approach this breakdown by establishing individual player expectations heading into the season so we can more effectively evaluate each player at the end of the season—that way, we can avoid being a prisoner of the moment. 

So, let’s review the breakdown of how we define player expectations:

  • No expectations (walk-ons, true freshmen, practice bodies).
  • Low expectations (roster fillers, third team players, next man up situation).
  • Moderate expectations (key backups & role players *how well are you playing the role asked of you).
  • High expectations (core players of the team you expect to make a big impact in their role or statistically). 

Let’s continue our series with the Wisconsin football running backs. 

High Expectations 

  • Braelon Allen (JR)

In our high-expectations group, the only Wisconsin football running back that should be in the high-expectations group is preseason Walter Camp All-American selection Braelon Allen

Allen, a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin native, enters his junior season in Madison coming off back-to-back second-team All-Big Ten campaigns. 

The 6-foot-2, 238-pound tailback finished last season with 230 carries for 1,242 yards (5.4 YPC) and 11 touchdowns. He also caught a career-high 13 passes for 104 yards. Pro Football Focus credits him with 671 yards after contact and 2.92 yards after contact per attempt. 

With Phil Longo installing his air raid system, Allen should see those eight-man boxes evaporate. He has faced a stacked box more than any other Power 5 running back over the last two seasons. 

It will be interesting to see his usage in 2023, but I feel confident saying that his efficiency will see an uptick and, more importantly, he should have a better chance of staying healthy. 

He’s the clear-cut RB1 for UW and will likely be off to the NFL after this year. To meet expectations, Allen needs to be an All-Big Ten performer and be one of the focal points of the Wisconsin football offense. 

Wisconsin Football RBs With Moderate Expectations

  • Chez Mellusi (RS SR)

In the moderate expectations group, the only player I feel comfortable listing here is fifth-year running back Chez Mellusi, who has been the perfect complementary tailback to Braelon Allen. 

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound RB has taken 285 carries in the last two seasons for 1,288 yards and seven touchdowns on 4.5 YPC. 

His running style is a nice change of pace from Allen, offering more of a one-cut runner who is quicker than he is fast but can explode through a hole while still managing to play bigger than he is. 

To meet expectations, Mellusi needs to stay healthy and take on a similar workload to the one we’ve seen him take on in the past for Wisconsin football and to be an above average backup that can spell Agent 0 for a few drives when necessary without sacrificing quality.

Wisconsin Football RBs With Low Expectations

  • Jackson Acker (RS SO)

In this group, I will go with my gut and place Jackson Acker in the low-expectations group because he has the best chance to win the RB3 competition, IMO. 

Acker, standing at 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, offers a different skill set than the other options in the running back room because he is transitioning from fullback. Last season, he played in 12 games, starting nine of them, making him the most experienced option in the competition for RB3

For his career, Acker has six carries for 34 yards and a touchdown on the ground, plus five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown receiving. 

This spot is completely up for grabs in fall camp — and I could easily be wrong — but in a group as young as Wisconsin football has behind Allen and Mellusi, I’m leaning on experience as what sets him apart. To meet expectations, Acker needs to establish himself as the No. 3 back behind the 1, 2 punch of Allen and Mellusi. 

No Expectations

  • Cade Yacamelli (RS FR)
  • Nate White (FR)
  • Grover Bortolotti (RS SO)

As I mentioned above, anything is possible in the competition to be the Wisconsin football RB3. However, I don’t have any expectations for the grouping above. 

Again, that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. It just means it’s not likely that any of them will play a meaningful role on the Badgers in 2023. Cade Yacamelli is a converted safety and is a really intriguing athlete. It’s not inconceivable that if everything clicks that he could earn snaps sparingly, but that’s a lot to put on someone who spent their entire freshman year playing defense. 

Nate White is the lone scholarship tailback entering the program and fits this scheme really well. He is dynamic and has make you miss stuff in the open field but carving out a role right out the gate will be tough, considering he wasn’t here during the spring.  

Odds are, someone from this group will carve out a niche role for the Wisconsin football team this fall, but this is how I see things right now. To meet expectations, Yacamelli, White, and Bortolotti must continue developing and adapting to the new scheme and be ready when their number is called in case of emergency. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author 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, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.