In the days leading up to the start of the University of Wisconsin’s spring football practice on Tuesday, State Journal beat reporter Jason Galloway will preview each of UW’s position groups. Today, in Part 10 of an 11-part series, he breaks down the Badgers’ running backs.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
1. Jonathan Taylor (above), Jr.
2. Garrett Groshek, Jr.
1. Mason Stokke, Jr.
2. John Chenal, R-Fr.
Bradrick Shaw, Sr.
Hunter Johnson, So.
Nakia Watson, R-Fr.
*Julius Davis, Fr.
Coy Wanner, So.
Jake Collinsworth, So.
*Quan Easterling, Fr.
*Not enrolled for spring semester
Taiwan Deal (above), UW’s second-leading rusher behind Jonathan Taylor with 545 yards and six touchdowns, graduated, along with Chris James.
The Badgers also lost Alec Ingold. His stellar 2018 season led to a Senior Bowl invite, and he also became the only fullback invited to the NFL Combine this year.
Jonathan Taylor entered the season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and didn’t disappoint. He led the nation with 2,194 rushing yards, 434 more than any other Power Five conference player, and notched a second straight top-10 Heisman finish.
Taiwan Deal stayed mostly healthy after battling ankle injuries earlier in his career and provided Taylor with a more-than-capable backup on early downs.
Garrett Groshek (above) pulled away in a competition with Chris James to become the Badgers’ full-time passing-down back. He caught 24 passes and gained 588 total yards from scrimmage.
Alec Ingold scored seven total touchdowns and put together his best season as a blocker.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019
Jonathan Taylor will be a workhorse again and take a stab at winning back-to-back Doak Walker Awards as the nation’s top running back.
Expect Garrett Groshek to continue handling third-down work, but the competition to replace Taiwan Deal as Taylor’s direct backup could be an interesting one.
Bradrick Shaw (above) missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in November of 2017. If he’s able to get healthy, he could win that job. Many were excited for Nakia Watson when he arrived in Madison last year, but he ultimately didn’t play as a true freshman. A full offseason could help push him into every-week snaps.
The fullback depth chart may also be up in the air, as none on the roster have much meaningful game experience. Mason Stokke is likely the favorite to start, and every other player at the position could compete for the No. 2 spot.
NAME TO WATCH
Julius Davis’ stellar junior season at Menomonee Falls High brought in offers from LSU, Notre Dame and USC, but he stuck with his commitment to the Badgers.
He missed almost his entire senior season with a sports hernia, but he could be talented enough to compete for reps immediately after he arrives on campus this summer.
It’s Jonathan Taylor’s show for at least one more season. As long as he stays healthy, the Badgers’ running game won’t be easy to slow down.