Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Let’s make a Deal: Redshirt freshman continues to take advantage of unexpected opportunity

Running back has shown steady improvement through first three weeks
Joey Reuteman

The first time Wisconsin football fans got to see redshirt freshman tailback Taiwan Deal in action was the team’s 2015 spring game, where the power runner impressed as he ran the ball 15 times for 76 yards.

The buzz surrounding the running back was positive, but given that Deal was expected to run behind both junior Corey Clement and redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale coming into this season, it was thought that would be the last time Deal would play a featured role in 2015.

That expectation changed week one when Clement left the Badgers’ season opener against Alabama with a groin injury he suffered from in practice the week before. Ogunbowale wasn’t able to shoulder the load on his own, so Deal was called upon to make his UW debut sooner than he or anyone else expected.


His performance was subpar, as the Wisconsin running game couldn’t get anything going against Alabama’s front seven and Deal finished with just 14 yards on six carries.

But the takeaway for Deal was not the numbers he put up.

Instead, he focused on the learning experience he gained after facing one of the nation’s most vaunted defenses.

“Through practice, coaches always just say relax, come out confident and just build on your performances every week,” Deal said.

And now, after week three of the regular season, Deal is running with more confidence and has instilled it in his coaches and companions that he – despite his freshman status – can help alleviate the depth issue in the backfield while UW’s lead man is sidelined.

The biggest part of his game the redshirt freshman had to work on was his patience, according to head coach Paul Chryst.

Through Deal’s first two games, he had a tendency to try and run through the tackles, rather than between them. As a result, he would get stuck at the line of scrimmage, unable to make a play.

After the performance against Troy, where Deal ran for a career-high 84 yards on 16 carries, it’s clear to Chryst the running back is starting to put the pieces together.

“He’s just starting to get it right,” Chryst said. “The good runners have a patience to them, and then let the play develop. It seemed like there was a little bit more patience with [Deal].”

A key factor for Deal within the offense is the offensive line’s development, who, as a unit, has been dealing with an array of injuries as they look to continue to build on-field chemistry.

Despite redshirt junior lineman Walker Williams being out with an ankle injury Saturday, the offensive line feels they put up their most solid performance of the season so far, and for sophomore lineman Hayden Biegel, the only way to keep improving is to continue doing your job.

“As an offensive lineman, we just focus on our blocking assignments,” Biegel said. “We just try to do our jobs and that’s to give the backs the best look we can.”

And when the offensive line does their job, it makes it easier for Deal to do his.

“This week with the offensive line we had a little different scheme and we knew where to hit the holes and where they’d be,” Deal said. “So just sticking with the schemes, sticking with the plan was key.”

Deal proved Saturday he can be more than a short yardage back, as just a week ago against Miami (Ohio), Deal was almost exclusively used in short yardage and goal line situations.

Now, in gaining more experience as a runner and with the offensive line steadily improving, Deal showed he has the ability to be an any-down back and the Badgers will need him to continue to exert this kind of effort for at least one more week, as Clement is not expected to return until the team’s Big Ten opener against Iowa.

But for now, Deal will continue to help carry the load out of the backfield with Clement serving as his advisor.

“[Ogunbowale and I] are used to it in practice now, with he and I taking most of the reps,” Deal said. “Corey is on our side at all times telling us what we can do on this play or that play, but we will continue to take the load until he comes back.”

And the more reps Deal takes, the more the tailback will continue to improve and move in the right direction.

Saturday was a big step in that direction.

“I feel like I got better today and I can continue to get better,” Deal said. “Moving forward, I just need to build on what I did today.”

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