Over the past few days there was a nice back and forth via the wonderful world of Twitter and it got me to thinking…. thinking about the awesomeness that was the 2010 Badgers running back stable. Why was I thinking about that season? Well, because the 2013 version of the Badgers backfield has enough talent in it to wonder how they'll be used and 2010 could be the blueprint for that season.
What's that… You don't remember that 2010 season? Well, then let me refresh your memory. That backfield featured junior John Clay, sophomore Montee Ball, and freshman James White – names that should sound familiar, right?
Even more important are the numbers behind that first of three Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl season as it could provide an exact blueprint to what 2013 may look like. In 2010 all three had 156 carries or more on the season with John Clay leading the way in carries with 187.
Additionally, here are the rushing totals for that season: James White – 1,052; John Clay – 1,012; Montee Ball – 996.
Of course asking for this group in 2013- of which we really only know what James White is capable of in terms of extended experience – to duplicate those results is asking perhaps a bit too much. It was an historic season and all.
But, to those whom much is given (and these guys are all very, VERY talented), much is required and I wouldn't bet against any of these guys from being able to accomplish similar feats.
However, what's different about this group is that there isn't a 245lbs. bruising back to take up the hard yardage carries. Now, incoming freshman Corey Clement possess some awesome power to his game, but he's just a freshman and who really knows if he'll be able to overtake the likes of Jeff Lewis (health has to be a concern) and Vonte Jackson (again, health is a major concern there with two ACL tears already).
At the top though we are very likely to see two very evenly matched running backs in White and Gordon. In fact there may not be a more under appreciated running back in the country than James White.
All he's done is average 6.7, 5.1, and 6.4 yards per carry each season in his career – one in which he's never taken on more than the 156 carries he took on as a freshman.
History and numbers say he won't take on a lot more, but so to does the talent behind him and that all adds up to a scenario that may look very similar to 2010 for me. Especially when you watch what's going on at the wide receiver position – it's likely that this team is going to need to run the ball a lot in 2013.
As for Gordon, well last season we never really saw him between the tackles, but in the spring game we all saw what he possesses – which is amazing vision and explosiveness that we haven't seen in a running back at Wisconsin in a long time, if ever. Now, let's see him do it in more than a spring scrimmage and I'll be a believer that he could be an every down back kind of guy.
Even more important than all of that is to look at how new head coach Gary Andersen used a loaded backfield of his own at Utah State. In 2011 he had names like Robert Turbin, Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams (Turbin is an NFL star and Williams got drafted by the Colts in this year's draft). In that year the Aggies ran the ball 444 times between the three of them for nearly 3,000 yards – numbers not too far off of what UW did in 2010 – hmmm…..
Clearly Andersen is capable of using the strength of his team instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole just because his OC has a certain philosophy he'd like to put in motion.
If Wisconsin is going to be successful this season and possibly beyond, running the ball a lot has to be a part of their future and all signs are clearly pointing to this backfield being more than capable of sharing the load just as 2010's did. If that ends up happening, perhaps we could expect similar results?
At the least I'd expect we'd see a near even split in carries between White and Gordon and I wouldn't be surprised to see both somewhere in the 160's in terms of carries when it's all said and done.
Of course this is all conjecture at this point in time, but it's hard not to read the tea leaves of Andersen and Wisconsin's past and wonder if 2013 is going to be another 2010 like season.