When you think Wisconsin football you think about the running backs. Throughout the past Badgers teams you think PJ Hill, John Clay, Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon. We enter 2016 with questions for the first time in a while. After Gordon’s last season at Wisconsin in 2014, everyone thought junior Corey Clement was next in line. After a disappointing season for Clement, it has opened the door wide open for guys like Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal. No matter who the Badger’s running back is, as always in a Badger’s offense, we will see the ball a lot, and hopefully will carry them to the promise land.
The front runner of the group is still senior Corey Clement. While his struggles last season hurt him, there is still no question that the talent is there. The 5”11 209 pound Clement showed a lot of promise when he showed flashes behind Melvin Gordon in 2014. He ran for 949 yards as a backup RB. When you sit behind one of the best running backs in Badger history, and run for nearly 1,000 yards that is certainly impressive. Then comes 2015, what a different story that was for Corey. Injuries and a suspension led to him only play four games. During those four games, he struggled against Alabama, Northwestern, and USC combining for only 106 yards in three games YIKES! However, during the Rutgers game Clement went off running for 111 yards on 11 carries and running for three touchdowns. It really showed that maybe if he comes into 2016 healthy and focused on football he can be a great one. Clement is looking for a fresh start, and he even switched his number to 24. The odds of him being the running back when the Badgers open up against LSU are good but he has to avoid setbacks. Right now his odds are set at about 1 to 4.
When Clement went down last season, Dare Ogunbowale stepped in and had a very productive season. Running for 819 yards and 4 yards per carry were productive stats for the junior who was thrown into action. The thing that scares me about Dare is consistency. If he wants to be the number one RB this season he has to play good every single week. Consistency will not be the only issue Dare has going into his senior season. Size is an issue as well. Ogunbowale is 5”11 but only 185 pounds. The coaching staff will make sure he puts on weight this offseason. The experience he gained being the starter basically all of last season, will really help Dare in this year’s competition. While Dare, the former walk on Cornerback, showed his fair share of flashes last season. It will still be hard for him to overcome Clement with no setbacks. For now, I would say his odds are set at about 9 to 2.
Then comes the unlikely option for this season but possibly in the future, Sophomore Taiwan Deal. Backup to Dare, most of last season he showed some tremendous potential. During Wisconsin’s 28-0 blowout of Hawaii, Deal went off running for 147 yards on 26 carries and punched in two touchdowns. Being very young still, I think the Badgers would like to ease him in more before declaring him a starter. I could see Deal getting carries every once in a while this year, but I doubt he will start this year. Taiwan’s odds as of now are 80 to 1.
The Badgers, no matter who is carrying the ball, will always be a run first team. Whether it’s Clement, Ogunbowale, or Deal, they will have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Wisconsin went 9-3 and won a bowl game last year under mediocre running back play. Paul Chryst and the coaching staff surely would like to see more consistent play from whoever the starter is so this team can take the next step. With the Badgers right on the brink of being an elite team in the Big Ten, having elite backfield production can help them take the next step.