By TOM LEA
MADISON – Considering Vonte Jackson spent all but a couple of quarters of his senior season at Kenosha Bradford on the sidelines nursing a torn ACL, one can only imagine how excited he is to get back on the football field.
Though he wasn’t able to participate in Bradford’s state championship victory over Wisconsin Rapids, he was able to parlay his talents into a full-ride scholarship to play football for Bret Bielema’s Badgers.
Having entered the program last January in time for winter conditioning and spring camp, Jackson had an opportunity to learn new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense.
“It was a great advantage for him being here in January to learn the playbook,” UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock said following Tuesday’s practice. “Now he can go out there and play fast and loose.”
And now, having been cleared 100 percent by team doctors, it’s apparent the talented tailback is ready to showcase his abilities.
“I’m sure he is chomping at the bit,” Hammock said. “To get that emotion. To get that feeling and get that sense of competition and to compete in a game again.”
Jackson is currently No. 5 on the Badgers fall camp depth chart. He’s the youngest and most inexperience back UW has. Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon (a high school teammate of Jackson’s) and Jeff Lewis are all ahead of Jackson at this juncture, albeit early.
So though he’s excited to get back on the practice field, it’s probably too soon to say he will play a role on game days this fall.
“There are a lot of steps we need to take before we can get to that moment,” Hammock said. “And he certainly knows he’s got to do that.”
WHERE DOES LEWIS STAND?
Jeff Lewis has always received the short end of the running back stick. Every time he seems to make strides and open some eyes he suffers an injury that prevents him from expanding on his abilities or momentum.
He’s suffered broken hands and iffy hamstrings throughout his still young career. Now that he’s regained his health, it seems as though this fall represents an opportunity for him to truly climb the depth chart.
“This spring he wasn’t as healthy,” Hammock said. “He’s healthy now. He came back in great shape. He’s getting more opportunities as well. It’s a healthy, healthy competition. I’m looking forward to getting better and hopefully peaking on Sept. 1.”
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