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When the Badgers return to the field for fall camp, the offense will look a lot different than it did at the end of last season. Gone are Coach Rudolph, the team’s top three pass-catchers, and two starting offensive linemen.
Beyond that, UW has a first-year offensive coordinator in Bobby Engram, who comes to Wisconsin from the Baltimore Ravens. He’ll attempt to bring fresh concepts and bolster a struggling Badgers offense that’s failed to average more than 26 points per game in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991.
The Badgers return third-year starter Graham Mertz, a strong rushing attack led by Braelon Allen, and a talented offensive line expected to take a step forward under Bob Bostad.
Question marks still surround UW’s passing game that will feature a group of young and inexperienced pass-catchers led by Chimere Dike.
Nevertheless, with the help of a few familiar faces returning from injury, the Badgers’ offense could return to form in 2022.
Today BadgersWire examines three offensive players that missed time last season who could play critical roles in 2022:
Chez Mellusi, Running Back
Sep 11, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (6) rushes with the football during the first quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Senior Chez Mellusi opened 2021 as Wisconsin’s starting running back before suffering a non-contact knee injury in November against Rutgers – forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.
In nine games, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound RB carried the ball 173 times for 815 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught an additional seven passes for 66 yards.
The former Clemson transfer was desperately missed as the season wore on, and UW was left without a solid No. 2 option behind freshman workhorse Braelon Allen. In an offensive system like Wisconsin’s, having a healthy stable of rushers is an absolute necessity.
With Mellusi presumably returning this fall, Wisconsin will have a formidable thunder and lightning combo with complementary skill sets in their backfield.
If he can return to full health, Mellusi will be in line for a significant role in the Badgers’ offense in 2022.
Clay Cundiff, Tight End
Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff (85) receives a pass during the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Redshirt junior Clay Cundiff appeared in five games at tight end for the Badgers last season before sustaining multiple lower-body injuries against Iowa – forcing him to miss the season.
Last season, he caught three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown – highlighted by a 43-yard completion off of a play-action pass from Graham Mertz against Notre Dame in week three.
According to PFF, the 6-foot-3, 244-pound TE played 105 total snaps and registered the third-highest grade on the entire Badgers offense (86.5). Albeit a small sample size, Cundiff also held the highest pass-catching grade on the team in 2021 (91.7). The ability is there; his emergence was simply cut short due to injury.
With long-time contributor Jake Ferguson off to the NFL, the Badgers’ tight end room is overflowing with opportunities to see the field.
Cundiff, a native of Wichita, Kansas, is among the leading candidates to fill the team’s vacancy as the top pass-catching TE, along with redshirt senior Jack Eschenbach.
Should he remain healthy, Cundiff could give UW’s re-tooled receiving corps another viable option in its passing attack.
Isaac Guerendo, Running Back
Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Isaac Guerendo (20) runs the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola (57) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Redshirt senior Isaac Guerendo is one of the few home run hitters on the Wisconsin roster; however, he’s struggled with injuries his entire career, and last season was no different.
During warmups against the Illinois Fighting Illini in week five, Guerendo suffered a Lisfranc injury that forced him to miss the team’s final nine games.
In four games last season, the speedy running back carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards and a touchdown. His game-breaking speed was on full display against Eastern Michigan when he broke off an 82-yard touchdown run, leaving the opposing defenders in the dust.
The expectation is that Guerendo will be available when the Badgers open fall camp. Which is excellent news for first-year RB coach Al Johnson, who could conceivably have three terrific change of pace options available in his stable of rushers.
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