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Montee Ball Returns to Wisconsin: What Does That Mean for the Badgers?

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs the ball as he is hit by Troy Hill #2 of the Oregon Ducks in the second half at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2012

Montee Ball" target="_blank">Montee Ball, as of Monday, plans to return for his senior season at Wisconsin instead of entering the 2012 NFL draft. As a Heisman finalist and Doak Walker Award recipient, his presence is sure to be felt in many crucial games.

If not for a couple of Hail Mary's, Wisconsin would be in the title game right now. On top of that performance, the Badgers dodge the Michigan Wolverines during the regular season at least until the B1G Championship Game. With Denard Robinson and Matt Barkley likely being the preseason favorites for the Heisman, Ball is likely to join them if he sticks to his senior season at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's signature opportunities lie in the games against Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. If they can establish the run early in the season, teams toward the end of the schedule will stack the box and force them to pass.

I don't think Wisconsin will have a problem striking from the pocket in those situations, since they have four games to find their rhythm before the first of their real tests. With Montee Ball leading the rushing attack, they may have success against a stacked box anyway.

If they utilize a fullback or two to pave his way through the D-line, the quarterback will be untouched for the majority of the game. If that's the case, he will be fresh and uninjured when his passes are dialed up.

Montee Ball's prowess allowed him to average 6.3 yards per carry for a total of 1923 yards and 33 touchdowns in the 2011 season. With more experience under his belt, he may very well be capable of improving on those stats next year.

Returning is a high-risk move for a running back for two reasons:

1) Staying healthy is difficult when you're getting hit so often, and injuries can be crippling to RB's.

2) Other teams can load the box and crush your statistics, as they did with Mark Ingram in his post-Heisman 2010 season.

Montee Ball loves Wisconsin, and is willing to take those risks for the Badgers. I expect to see some high-impact, high-quality blocking for the senior in 2012. Hopefully the players on offense recognize the risks Ball is taking for them, and show him the respect he's earned with this move.

Congratulations to Wisconsin for making an impression on a man large enough to earn his return! He may be the difference-maker in the B1G Championship next year. He may be enough to get Wisconsin into the title game, too.

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