Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football: Badgers’ trio looks to add next chapter of ‘Running-Back U’

Two-back sets have played out well for Wisconsin in recent years, but next season could feature a three-back set
Jason Chan

Wisconsin men’s football didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher last season for the first time since 2008.

After Heisman hopeful and potential first round pick Corey Clement suffered an early groin injury in week one’s blowout loss to Alabama, backups Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale were unable to carry the unanticipated load and fell flat during a mediocre season.

The two amassed only 1,322 total yards and averaged a combined 3.8 yards per carry.


While Clement recovered with enough time to play against Rutgers on Halloween, he finished the year with only 231 rushing yards and was forced to sit out the season finale at Minnesota for off-field disciplinary issues.

Football: Clement cited for off-campus altercation

The numbers were particularly atypical for a school that is frequently known for its legendary backfields, but the three returning backs remain unfazed by the expectations that come each season.

“With Corey down last season and Dare and I vying for time, we all just became really close,” Deal said. “It’s a party every time we see each other now and we carry that fun off the field into our practice and work each week.”

Wisconsin has never been a stranger to a two-back set, and has sported some of the most productive tandems college football has ever seen.

That list is headlined by five straight years with John Clay and Montee Ball in 2010, Ball and James White from 2011-12, White and Melvin Gordon in 2013 and Gordon and Clement in 2014. Each duo racked up more than 2,600 yards on the ground and made up five of the top six most efficient two-back sets in Big Ten history.

Despite all the success two running back offenses have had for the Badgers over the years, this close triangle of guys has a different feel. With Clement finally returning to health late in spring practice, a rare three-back set could emerge entering an especially brutal fall schedule.

“We’re all brothers,” Clement said. “Whether it’s a good or a bad play, we hold each other accountable and work with each other to make it positive. No one guy thinks they’re higher than any other guy in the group and that makes it fun to be around.”

Football: As spring winds down, quarterback battle heats up

The backs enter their second season under head running backs coach John Settle. Settle resumed his position at University of Wisconsin after a brief stint with the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and University of Pittsburg before returning to Madison with current head coach Paul Chryst. Settle told ESPN’s Jesse Temple in March this year’s core really thought they were able to do the little things last season to help the Badgers get wins, and their close relationship will make them dangerous in the coming season.

“Coach Settle does an excellent job of implementing both collegiate and NFL skills on and off the field,” Clement said. “He treats us like adults and that’s how we, as a unit, want to be treated. Whoever’s the freshman in the room is going to get treated like a senior and that’s the mentality he wants you to have.”

Despite the lack of productivity a season ago, Clement’s absence might have been what this unit needed to reach the elite level associated with a typical Wisconsin backfield. The entire offensive line from last season is coming back and Chryst has finally built the power running unit he set out to establish in his return to Wisconsin.

“I think we can be one of the best tandems in the country,” Deal said. “Three running backs that all have power and speed; we can do some really good things this season.”

With the final week of spring practice in the books, the three will enter summer play at full strength and look forward to the fall. Clement rehabbed his way back into live scrimmages at practice and seems relatively healthy entering his senior year.

“[Ogunbawole and Deal] are motivating competitors and just always going,” Clement said. “You want those guys around you to help you get better.”

Settle and the backs seemed incredibly confident exiting spring practice last Thursday. All in all, team cohesion in the backfield looks solid and could push the Badgers back into form as a running powerhouse.

“It feels great to carry on the tradition and legacy of some of those legendary running backs,” Deal said. “This is Wisconsin football and we are the ‘running back university.’”

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