July 17, 2009

Fall Outlook: Fullbacks

With Wisconsin's fall camp only a matter of weeks away, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look at the individual position groups. Today, our focus is on the fullbacks. After losing key contributors from a season ago in Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester, there will be some new faces paving the way for the Badger backs.

Departing Starters: Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester
Returning Starters: None
Top Reserves: Bradie Ewing
Freshman Impact: Dex Jones and Sam Spitz

Post-Spring Depth Chart:
R-Fr. Dex Jones (6-1, 245)
R-Fr. Sam Spitz (6-1, 245)
So. Bradie Ewing (6-1, 215)

Overview: A complete overhaul of the fullback position will leave a very young and inexperienced rotation in the Badger backfield. After losing two talented, multi-faceted fullbacks from a season ago, it seems Dex Jones is the leader to start the season this September.

Jones, who spent his entire high school career as a running back, is a physical presence and a big body that looks to have the tools necessary to get a bunch of reps this season. But before that happens, Jones needs to display his knowledge of the playbook.

"Obviously learning the whole offensive playbook isn't going to come to you within a season, a spring," Jones said during spring camp. "But…from the start of spring ball to now, I know a lot more than I did before."

Behind Jones is Sam Spitz who also received plenty of reps during the 15-practice spring schedule. Spitz, who is similar in statue to Jones, possesses a pop when landing blocks and will likely push Jones throughout fall camp.

Then finally, Ewing, who missed most of spring camp with a shoulder injury, will look to get back into the fold. His versatility is a welcome addition to the rotation and his game experience from a season ago will help the position.

The Pro: Because none of the three fullback candidates have much experience-both Jones and Spitz are coming off a redshirt season-it is difficult to tab one of them as the 'Pro.' But based on his performance in spring camp-one where he continually improved and became more comfortable as the lead blocker- Jones gets a slight nod as the head guy of the group. But if Ewing returns from his shoulder injury that limited his progress last spring, he could press Jones and Spitz if he picks up where he left off before the injury.

The Rookie: Spitz. As was previously mentioned, Spitz has a big, physical body that is typical of Badger fullbacks. By redshirting, like Jones, Spitz should have a solid grasp on the playbook and a confidence that could lead him onto the playing field.

Battle To Watch: Who will emerge as the starter? There are three players vying for a starting role with Jones slightly ahead. In the end, the rotation will be young but the player who is named starter will have earned it. And by earning it, they will be a lead blocker for one of the Big Ten's most talented group of running backs. This position battle will likely extend throughout the entirety of camp.

Expectations: Everybody knows Wisconsin is going to run the ball with John Clay and company. So, though the fullbacks never really show up in the box score, they man one of the most important positions on the offensive side of the ball.

Because the group is so young, there will likely be growing pains as they become more experienced in game situations. Thus, the coaching staff had tight end Mickey Turner either line up or motion into the backfield and serve as an effective lead blocker with one of the young fullbacks.

In the end, all three fullbacks are talented and will undoubtedly have success in time. After seeing such tenured and talented fullbacks in Pressley and Rentmeester exhaust their eligibility, the face of the Badger fullbacks will be fresh and new come September.

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