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MADISON - Austin Ramesh committed to Wisconsin’s 2013 recruiting class not expecting to get his chance to participate on the field until next spring.
A talented two-way player at Northland Pines High, a tiny school in Eagle River, WI, on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, Ramesh accepted a grayshirt offer last spring, planned to spend the offseason building his body and figure out whether he was going to be a fullback or linebacker before he started spring ball in 2014.
But after only a couple summer conditioning sessions on Wisconsin’s campus and a sudden lack of depth, head coach Gary Andersen and the rest of his staff decided to make a switch.
“After a week or two of our summer workouts Coach Andersen told me to come in and talk to him,” Ramesh said Tuesday after practice. “He told me because of the depth at linebacker he wanted me to come in as a normal scholarship at running back. It was a little bit of a change but I’m trying to get use to it.”
Although willing to play either position at Wisconsin, Ramesh was always more comfortable on the offensive side of the ball, where he was a first-team all-state tailback in 2012. But he wasn’t a slouch on defense either, earning first-team all-state honors at linebackers after recording 93 tackles.
So, Ramesh embraced the change. He lifted weights and trained like a linebacker, building his 6-1 frame up to 235 pounds. As soon as he was switched back, Ramesh started to work on his footwork, up his speed, learn the plays and drop the weight.
But first, he had a phone call to make.
“The first thing I did was call my dad and he was pretty excited about the whole thing,” said Ramesh. “I was happy to hear that I would get the chance to compete. Offense has always felt more natural to me. I’m just so excited to be back on that side of the ball.
“I wanted to be a part of this class. I was hoping I would get the chance to get really close to this class and be with them all the way through. It was a surprise when Coach Andersen told me. I was very happy that I would get my chance.”
Ramesh will have to play catch up with the other veteran running backs like James White and Melvin Gordon and classmate Corey Clement, but he has plenty of experience under his belt already. During his senior season, Ramesh rushed for 1,670 yards and 19 touchdowns, not to mention adding 12 receptions for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
The freshman running back feels more comfortable in his new position at fall camp, but it’s the up-tempo practices he’s still trying to get use to.
“Obviously to go from high school to college football is a lot different. The speed, intensity and tempo are a lot more intense,” said Ramesh. “You have to stay with it, you have to keep your head on your shoulders and learn as much as you can.”
With only five running backs listed on the 2013 roster, Ramish is one of three rookies competing for a spot along with Clement and 5-10, 225-pound walk-on D.J. Spurling from Slinger. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s exciting being a part of a smaller unit and to get the chance to compete for a spot,” Ramesh said. “The younger running backs are all competing for a shot of course but we’re also trying to make the older guys work harder.
“It’s the smallest group. The upper classmen help out a lot. We are starting to get really close as a group. (We) younger running backs just look up to the older guys while we compete for a spot, but we also try to make the veterans better.”