Losing a starter is a setback for most teams. If that starter is a Doak Walker Award winner it would be devastating for even more teams, and losing the FBS touchdown leader is catastrophic for just about everyone. The Wisconsin Badgers are faced with that situation, as the departure of Montee Ball should have left a crater at the running back position. Fortunately for the Badgers, their running back situation may have improved from last year to this year.
Senior James White looks to spearhead the rushing attack for this season as he comes into the year fresh off an 806 yards and 12 touchdown campaign on only 125 carries. In his career, White has rushed for 2,571 yards and 32 touchdowns, including breaking 1,000 yards in his freshman year. At 5-10 and under 200 pounds, White is not a traditional power back, nor is he a burner, but he has more than enough speed to set the edge as well as enough power to run between the tackles.
White will not have to do it alone as sophomore Melvin Gordon looks to take on a bigger role this season. In only 62 carries last season, Gordon racked up 621 yards and three touchdowns. Gordon, though he only caught two passes last season, has great hands and should get more looks in the passing game this season. Gordon has breakaway speed that few Wisconsin running backs have had in the past, and has shown explosion time and again, notably on his 57 yard touchdown reception against Penn State and in his nine carries against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship game where he picked up an astounding 216 yards.
Further down the depth chart, redshirt junior Jeffrey Lewis and redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson each look to vie for some extra carries along with incoming freshman Corey Clement. Clement was ranked the 149th best player in the class of 2013 and the 14th best running back. If he does not redshirt, look for Clement to play a role similar to Gordon’s this past year as a dynamic third option out of the backfield.
Overall, running back looks to be a position of strength yet again for the Badgers, despite the loss of Montee Ball as between White and Gordon, the team should break the 3,000 yard plateau for the fourth straight year.