Chez Mellusi's transfer to Wisconsin gives Badgers much-needed depth, explosiveness at RB
Rarely is the running back position a concern in Madison. That wasn’t exactly the case heading into the 2021 season with Jalen Berger clearly the top option out of the backfield, but the issue of depth was a looming question at Wisconsin.
Chez Mellusi’s decision to transfer into the program addressed that concern.
The former Clemson running back announced last week that he’ll be transferring to Wisconsin. Berger still probably as the No. 1 spot locked down on the depth chart, but Mellusi will provide the Badgers offense with another solid option out of the backfield.
Wisconsin lost three significant contributors out of the backfield from the 2020 season. Garrett Groshek left for the NFL and Nakia Watson hit the NCAA transfer portal. Behind Berger’s 301 yards and 2 touchdowns, all the experience the Badgers had at running back were Isaac Guerendo, who rushed for 36 yards on 11 carries, and Julius Davis, who totaled 1 yard on 1 touch.
Mellusi wasn’t overloaded with carries during his two seasons at Clemson, but he did carve out a small role for himself on one of the best offensive teams in the country. He totaled 427 yards and 6 touchdowns on 71 carries over the past two seasons with the Tigers, also catching 5 passes for 38 yards and an additional score.
Along with his experience, Mellusi will bring a little of that pop an sizzle every team loves to have in its backup ball carrier. He possesses the ability to blow past defenses when he has an opening and also has great hands out of the backfield.
#Badger fans, this is former Clemson RB Chez Mellusi.
5-11, 200lb back who runs bigger than his size (always falls forward), has real speed and can catch the football.
He’d be a significant addition to the 2021 backfield (&beyond) pic.twitter.com/cIVuRlzcIy
— Ben Kenney (@benzkenney) May 13, 2021
The Badger running back room just got a hell of a lot better today
— Future Badgers (@FutureWIBadgers) June 2, 2021
As good as Wisconsin has been at running the ball, most of that came on the legs of Jonathan Taylor. During his three seasons in Madison, the Badgers didn’t need much help out of the reserves other than to provide the temporary breather at times in the game.
Last year, Wisconsin needed multiple players to take carries and establish a presence on the ground. That will probably be the case again this season.
Berger emerged as the top ball carrier in Madison last season, but it was clear that he didn’t have quite the same breakaway speed as Taylor — not that many do. Berger is a hard-nosed runner who is always falling forward, capable of punishing defenders and wearing down opponents throughout the course of a game.
When the offensive line gives him an opening, Berger is capable of picking up chunks of yardage at a time. But in 2020, his primary role as a freshman was to be the old-school B1G running back who lowered his shoulders and consistently picked up 3-to-4 yards per carry.
It’s also important to remember that Berger was just scratching the surface in 2020, with his first season at the college level seriously hindered because of the on-again-off-again situation with the B1G in the summer and fall. He should be a more well-rounded player this season.
But Mellusi does a new element to the backfield. He’s the speedster who is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield also provides quarterback Graham Mertz with another option in the passing attack.
Simply put, the combination of Berger and Mellusi in the Badgers backfield creates a type of thunder-and-lightning threat that could be one of the best in the B1G. Hard to believe it’s happening at Wisconsin, isn’t it?
Berger is more than capable of being the primary back at Wisconsin, but the Badgers needed that big-play threat. That’s exactly what they’re getting with the addition of Mellusi.
The extent of Wisconsin’s slight running back concern lasted only a few months.