ORLANDO, Fla. — While it has been junior running back Brian Calhoun who has carried the Wisconsin football team this season, fellow tailback and classmate Booker Stanley had been a pleasant surprise in his backup role.
Last season, Stanley rushed for just 350 yards on 115 carries and the Milwaukee native came into his junior season averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
This year he seemingly had turned things around. Spelling Calhoun, Stanley accumulated almost as many rushing yards this season—340—as he did last season, while rushing 46 fewer times for a solid 4.9 yards per rush.
“He’s a good, tough back, and with him gone, you kind of lose a little bit of attitude,” sophomore tailback Jamil Walker said. “We always know Book’s going to run hard and get those yards.”
But due to legal issues following an arrest last week in Madison, all of those numbers have been put on the back-burner. Stanley is stuck at home while the rest of the Badger squad prepares for the Jan. 2 Capital One Bowl.
While many of the preparations remain the same—Calhoun will still carry the load—the shift in UW’s depth chart is significant. Now Walker will be in charge of giving Calhoun a break and giving the Badger offense a fresh look.
“The other guys got to play,” UW co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Brian White said. “They’ve got to back up Brian and be ready to play and play well.”
“It’s a chance, and any chance is a good thing,” Walker said. “And Auburn is a good team so if you can do well against them it looks even better.”
Walker has just 16 carries for 87 yards and one touchdown this season, but almost all of those totals came against an abysmal Temple team during the Badgers’ Sept. 10 rout of the Owls.
With just three carries for eight yards outside of that game, experience becomes a huge question for the backup tailback.
Nonetheless, even though almost all of their experience has come in practice, White espouses confidence in Walker and junior walk-on Dywon Rowan.
“I expect Jamil and Dywon to play well,” White said. “They’re good players. I feel very comfortable with them playing.”
White also said he hopes to continue the trend of giving Calhoun a drive off midway through the first half, even without Stanley around to spell him.
“I’d like to get Jamil in there in the first half,” White said.
That plan is fine as far as Walker is concerned. The sophomore has been working hard in practice all year so he would be ready when his time came.
“Practice all year has been going good,” Walker said. “All year I’ve been prepared to where—if something happened—I would be able to [go in].”
Perhaps Walker’s lack of experience could even play a positive role against Auburn.
With just 42 career carries, there is little video available featuring the sophomore and he may be able to catch the Tigers off guard.
“It may work to my advantage, we’ll see what happens,” Walker said. “All I know is I’m going to go out there and run hard.”
While there had been talk recently of Walker changing positions to linebacker next year, he said he was not going to worry about that at this point.
He only has one thing on his mind: preparing to be there when he is called upon and making an impact in next Monday’s game.
“Right now I’m a running back so I’m going to play running back,” Walker said. “I’m ready to just get in when I can get in and run. If [Calhoun] needs a break I’ll be right there.”