Junior running back Bradie Ewing has made the switch to fullback to help pave the way for the powerful Wisconsin running game.[/media-credit]One starred at halfback in high school. The other takes half of his practice snaps at guard on the offensive line.Meet Bradie Ewing and Ryan Groy, the 2010 fullback duo for the Wisconsin football team.Ewing, a native of Richland Center weighs in at 234 lbs. – or to put it another way, 21 lbs. less than running back John Clay’s listed weight – ran for over 3,000 yards in high school, scored 41 touchdowns and was named First-Team All-State his senior year. Now he smashes headlong into linebackers on a daily basis, buried not in just short-yardage piles but obscurity.Groy tips the scales at 307 lbs, was named the Wisconsin State Journal Player of the Year as an offensive lineman in his final high school season and has to bring two jerseys to game days – No. 79 in case he gets in at guard and No. 47 for his fullback duties.Their respective stories couldn’t be more different, save one defining similar characteristic: They both just wanted to get on the field.“A week before the first game, they put me in the formation [at fullback],” Groy said. “I didn’t know if I was doing scout, or what I was doing. And then we started running plays, and I was like ‘Am I a fullback? Yeah. Well, OK.’”“It got me on the field, so I wasn’t complaining.The death of the fullback position has been a long time coming. Gone are the glory days of Jim Taylor and 1,000 yard rushing seasons.Between spread offenses, shotgun formations and the proliferation of single back schemes, true fullbacks have little place in the college game, and more importantly, almost no place in the heart of an elite high school athlete. You cannot recruit what doesn’t exist.But the Badgers, with their old-school power running game, still have a need for a fullback. So they go looking in-house.Last season it was senior tight end Mickey Turner taking most of the snaps in front of the running back, with tight ends Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks sharing the load as well. This season, Ewing and Groy man the role.Neither played a down of fullback in high school, but it hardly matters now. They are on the field in front of 80,000 weekly. The fact that most fans couldn’t pick them out of a lineup is naught but an amusing anecdote.“It is just awesome to help the team win,” Ewing said.Against Austin Peay last Saturday, Ewing scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight-yard plunge up the middle on a play the Badgers call “belly.” Ewing added another score later on a three-yard swing reception.It was a short return to his days in high school as the featured playmaker before settling back into his role of leading blocker for Wisconsin’s current playmakers.“Anytime when you are a fullback, going from being a running back to a blocking fullback, it is cool to get the ball back in your hands,” Ewing said.The transition from halfback to fullback is probably more difficult mentally then physically. Glory seekers need not apply. Ewing often rehashes a phrase somewhere along the lines of “anything to help the team win” in his answers – a response he must believe to enjoy his job at fullback.“Without a doubt,” running back coach John Settle responded when asked if transitioning from halfback to fullback was more difficult mentally then physically. “But guys here know it is a team sport and they understand that they have a job to do. He approaches it with the right mindset.“The thing I am most pleased with is how much his blocking has improved drastically. I think he feels good about where he is. He is playing with a confidence now you like to see as a coach.”For Groy the short transition has been the other way around, more difficult learning the ins-and-outs of fullback then adjusting to a new role.Still taking half his practice snaps at guard and half at fullback, Groy says he believes his play has been up and down as the lead blocker. On one play he might be out in front, cutting a linebacker against Arizona State to lead to John Clay’s rushing touchdown, but against San Jose State he was partially responsible for a fumble after bumping into quarterback Scott Tolzien.“I didn’t even know going into fullback that my steps were important,” Groy said with a laugh. “I just stepped towards the play and hit. I guess I learned the hard way.”Besides giving Wisconsin a mix of personnel for their opponents to study – they super creatively call the package “Big” when Groy comes in – the fullback duo keep each other rested.Settle believes the roles on the team for Ewing and Groy have an uplifting effect on the rest of the roster as well. Their hard work in practice has paid off with playing time.“I think the players feed off of that,” Settle said. “I think they like to see guys on the field who otherwise might not get a chance to play.”Or maybe this is all overblown and Groy and Ewing just like hitting people.“He is a big dude, I’m not that bad. We both like getting in there and smacking skulls with some people,” Ewing said.
CHICAGO – When Malcolm Brogdon heard that Jim Boeheim compared him to Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson, the Virginia players to Brogdon’s right chuckled. It’s a lofty comparison, but Boeheim has coached both on the national level and likened the UVA senior, in some ways, to one of the best players in the NBA.“They play both ends of the court, they don’t say much, they just let their games do the talking for them,” Boeheim said. “Malcolm is not quite as good a shooter as Klay, but nobody is, either.”Brogdon finds a handful of his shots curling around screens and pulling up right away, but the 2-3 zone doesn’t lend nicely to that approach. He’s one of four finalists for the 2016 Naismith Trophy given to the country’s best player and scored a team-high 21 points in UVA’s win against the Orange earlier this season, so he’s more than capable of adapting to the more-foreign-than-not defensive looks SU will throw at him.Still, the connection of Virginia’s point guards to its best player will be tested at a time when the zone is playing its best as 10th-seeded Syracuse (22-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) steamrolls into an Elite Eight bout with No. 1 seed Virginia (29-7, 13-5) on Sunday night at the United Center.“Malcolm will be a huge part of getting into the middle of the zone,” UVA point guard London Perrantes said. “We may not be able to set as many screens, but we have some playmakers with and without the ball.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMORE COVERAGEDougherty: Syracuse-Virginia will be a rare clash of brand-name defenses3 things Jim Boeheim said: Timeouts, Tyler Roberson and Tony BennettTrevor Cooney is driving into the paint more by designDougherty: The ACC, with half the Elite 8, was an especially important proving ground for SyracuseTyler Lydon showing growth defensively in NCAA Tournament10 fun facts about VirginiaSyracuse basketball predictions for Elite Eight matchup with Virginia3 things Tony Bennett said: Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson and owning the zone The playmakers with the ball are Perrantes and Devon Hall. The main one without it, Brogdon. He too has a similar repertoire to Kyle Wiltjer, who roasted Syracuse from all over on Friday as the receiver of passes. Brogdon shoots almost 47 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from 3-point range, possessing an ability to finish in a variety of ways while averaging 18.4 points per game.On Saturday, a day before he tries to replicate what Wiltjer did to the Orange, Brogdon kept the same stoic look for almost the entirety of the 15 minutes Virginia players were at the podium. When he did speak, he answered questions crisply and without the same jovial smile that the four teammates beside him did. In a way it mimics how he plays, smooth, efficient and lacking flare.That’s part of what makes Brogdon so lethal, his balanced attack in Virginia’s first win against Syracuse this season a combination of three 2-pointers, three 3-pointers and six free throws. Nothing stood out too much in his stat line, just like he didn’t stand out too much with the personalities of Perrantes and Anthony Gill.“He’s an underrated offensive player,” Boeheim said. “He’s just a really good basketball player, doesn’t say a lot. I like those guys…they don’t have big celebrations when they make normal plays that they make, which are great plays.”Two of those plays, back-to-back long balls in a 31-second span, quickly made a one-point game with under six minutes left a seven-point one, and Syracuse couldn’t recover in an eventual eight-point loss that snapped its three-game winning streak.“I think the trap that the zone presents is shooting quick shots, shooting your first open shot, not getting them moving and just settling,” Brogdon said. “Not settling and getting the shots that you want later in the shot clock I think is the key.”Just over two months later, Virginia has a chance to repeat what it did on Jan. 24 and stifle yet another Syracuse 3-game run.This time, it would end it altogether, with no chance for the Orange to bounce back. But Syracuse too has a second chance, a shot at redemption to slow down one of the country’s best players and keep its Cinderella run intact for one more game. Comments Published on March 26, 2016 at 6:43 pm Contact Matt: email@example.com | @matt_schneidman Facebook Twitter Google+