Badgers running back Zach Brown plans to use his final year of eligibility somewhere besides Wisconsin, coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday.
Brown is a redshirt senior who is scheduled to graduate in August. This makes him eligible for a new NCAA rule that allows players who have already graduated to transfer without the normal one-year waiting period. Rumors swirled last week that N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson would take advantage of the very same rule to transfer, with UW listed as one of his possible destinations.
Brown was a solid contributor to Wisconsin’s running game during his early years with the Badgers, but saw younger backs jump past him on the depth chart as his career went on. His best season at UW came when he was a true freshman. Brown backed up P.J. Hill that year and rushed for 568 yards on 119 carries. He then slipped to No. 3 on the depth chart first when John Clay burst on to the scene in 2008 and then again in 2009 during Montee Ball’s freshman campaign. Brown rushed for a combined 584 yards on 121 carries in those seasons.
Last season, Brown would have been Wisconsin’s No. 4 running back as James White joined Clay and Ball in the Badger backfield. Instead, Brown chose to redshirt, but never regained the backup role he played in 2007. Brown likely would have competed for the No. 3 spot with freshman Jeff Lewis this season, but now he’s headed elsewhere.
You can’t fault Brown’s decision to leave, but looking at his career at UW, I do wonder if his inability to stay in the backfield rotation was more a product of the Badgers bringing in elite backs or of Brown simply not working to get better like Badger fans saw Montee Ball do over the course of last season. Obviously, this could be totally inaccurate, but Brown certainly never looked better than he did when he first came to UW. If anything he was worse, as his yards per carry dropped from 4.8 during his freshman year to 4.2 his junior year.
Either way, I wish Brown well. It’s always nice to see Badger backs do well, even if it is at a different school.