One always hears about Running Backs at certain schools mostly USC, or Nebraska, or any other schools over the years that have had great Running Backs.
But, you don’t often hear about Wisconsin.
The Badgers are more than just the school where JJ Watt played his college football.
But, Wisconsin was pretty awful before they hired Barry Alvarez from Notre Dame where he was the Defensive Coordinator.
Alvarez knew what kind of team he wanted to field every season and that’s exactly what he accomplished. Most Defensive Coordinators like to have a running offense to keep their defenses off the field so that they can get some rest.
Brent Moss 1991 – 1994: Moss is the first really successful Running Back under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin. He was the first of many. Moss ran for 3,428 yards in college and 34 Touchdowns. His best year was in 1993 when he ran for over 1,600 yards.
Terrell Fletcher 1991-1994: Fletcher and Moss switched roles in 1994 with Fletcher being the big ground gainer for the Badgers. Over his career, Fletcher ran for 3,414 yards and 25 Touchdowns. Fletcher did not have a huge NFL career, but he was picked by the San Diego Chargers and played 8 seasons there.
Carl McCullough 1993 1995-1997: Here was a highly recruited guy that came in and played. Then, he sat out a season and was the team’s leading rusher in 1995 when he ran for over 1,000 yards. McCullough finished with 2,111 career rushing yards.
Ron Dayne 1996-1999: The reason that McCullough dropped off the list of top rushers was the arrival of Ron Dayne. Coming out of New Jersey, the Fullback sized Dayne ran for an NCAA career rushing record 7,125 and 71 Touchdowns. Article about career rushing leaders: career leaders
Michael Bennett 1999-2000: In two seasons, Bennett ran for 1,979 yards with 1,681 of them coming
in 2000 after Dayne was gone.
Anthony Davis 2001 -2004: Davis started off big for the Badgers running for 1,466 as a freshman and then for 1,555 as a sophomore. His numbers went down after that, but he still totaled 4,676 yards in 4 seasons.
Brian Calhoun 2005: Calhoun ran for 1,636 yards in his one and only season.
PJ Hill 2006 – 2008: In three seasons, Hill rushed for 3,942 yards and 42 Touchdowns. Hill bounced around the NFL for a couple of seasons, but he is no longer in the game.
John Clay 2008 – 2010: Clay backed up Hill during the 2008 season, but even as a backup he ran for 884 yards and 9 Touchdowns. In 2009, Clay ran for 1,517 yards and 18 scores. Over his three seasons at Wisconsin, Clay ran for 3,413 yards and 41 Touchdowns.
Montee Ball 2009 – 2010: Running for 5,140 yards and 77 Touchdowns, Ball was a consensus All American in 2011 and 2012. He ran for 1,923 yards and 33 Touchdowns in 2011, and 1,830 yards and
22 Touchdowns in 2012.
James White 2010 – 2013: White was a very productive Running Back for the Badgers. Over 4 seasons White ran for 4,015 yards and that is with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon being around.
Melvin Gordon 2011 – 2014: The monster season that Gordon had in 2014 with 2,587 yards rushing was fun to watch. Over his career, Gordon ran for 4,915 yards. The great thing about Gordon is that he averaged 7.8 yards per carry over his career.
Corey Clement 2013 – present: Clement has been Gordon’s back up until last year, but then he was injured in 2015 when he had his big shot.
I’m not sure any school can match Wisconsin as far as productive Running Backs year after year since the arrival of Barry Alvarez. Even through the transition of Bret Bielema, Gary Andersen and now Paul Chryst the Badgers have just kept running the ball.
With today’s players leaving so often after 3 seasons, I am not sure that Ron Dayne’s all time rushing record will ever be broken.