Badgers to get their Ball back

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, January 5, 2012
— With speculation about his future building, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball used Twitter Wednesday to address anxious UW fans:

“Lots of speculation out there, leaning one way but just not ready to make an announcement yet, appreciate everyone’s patience.”

UW coach Bret Bielema has been tight-lipped about Ball’s intentions. However, sources close to the team said Wednesday Ball is set to returning to UW for his senior season but wants to take time to ensure he is confident in his decision.

Eligible underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the 2012 National Football League draft.

Ball blossomed into an All-American tailback and a Heisman Trophy finalist as a junior in 2011.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder from Wentzville, Mo., rushed 307 times for 1,923 yards (6.3-yard average), the No. 3 single-season mark in program history behind Ron Dayne (2,109 in 1996 and 2,034 in ‘99), and 33 touchdowns.

He added 24 catches for 306 yards (12.8-yard average) and six touchdowns to help UW reach the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season.

Ball rushed 32 times for 164 yards and a touchdown in the 45-38 Rose Bowl loss to Oregon and tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for touchdowns in a season (39).

After UW lost to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Ball and Sanders exchanged tweets.

Sanders: tough loss, but you guys should be proud of your season. If it helps, I thought you played great today.

Ball: we for sure have our heads high, Oregon is a great team.. we will get it next year, and thank you! take care Barry! Ball became only the fourth player to run for at least 100 yards in consecutive Rose Bowls. The others are O.J. Simpson of USC (1968 and ’69), Ron Dayne of UW (1999 and 2000) and Vince Young of Texas (2005 and ’06).

Ball finished the season with 236 points, crushing the previous UW record of 144, set in 2005 by Brian Calhoun.

Before finishing fourth in the Heisman voting, Ball said he likely would enter the NFL draft if he was projected to be selected in the first or second rounds.

It is unclear what grade he received from the NFL draft advisory board but a total of 15 running backs were selected in the first and second rounds of the draft over the last three seasons. Three were taken in those rounds in 2009, followed by seven in 2010 and five last season.

Despite the impressive numbers he posted this season, Ball is not a consensus pick among the top five running backs expected to be available in the 2012 draft.

NFLDraftScout.com rates Ball as the sixth-best running back eligible for the draft.

He is behind Trent Richardson of Alabama (No. 7 overall), Lamar Miller of Miami (No. 33 overall), David Wilson of Virginia Tech (No. 42 overall), Chris Polk of Washington (No. 56 overall) and Doug Martin of Boise State (No. 69 overall). Ball is rated No. 80 overall, which would put him in the third round.

Another factor to consider that unlike other UW running backs who turned pro early, Ball genuinely loves attending UW and playing college ball.

The return of Ball would be huge coup for UW, which must replace several key starters from the team that finished 11-3.

That group includes quarterback Russell Wilson, wide receiver Nick Toon, guard Kevin Zeitler and offensive tackle Josh Oglesby.

Not only will UW be breaking in a new quarterback next season, the Badgers will have a new offensive coordinator (TBD) and a new offensive line coach (Joe Rudolph).

Last updated: 7:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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