The junior tailback who fell just short of 1,000 yards during an impressive sophomore campaign returned to Madison in better shape, hoping it would make him more explosive in the open field. Did it ever.
Ball rushed for 1,923 yards and eye-popping 33 touchdowns this season. He caught 24 passes for another 306 yards and six more scores.
The numbers, and Wisconsin’s run to the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl, positioned the 5-11, 210-pound tailback to be one of the most accomplished rushers in the 2012 NFL draft class.
But Ball thinks he can do even better.
On Thursday the Heisman Trophy finalist and Big Ten offensive player of the year announced his decision to return to the Badgers for his season year.
Ball said he was “disappointed” by the third-round grade he received from the NFL draft advisory board and hopes one final season will allow him to “better myself, my stock and also my team.”
Both will be tall tasks following Wisconsin’s second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl — granted, it was their second straight Rose Bowl defeat.
Ball led the nation in rushing and tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for single-season touchdowns with 39. Over the last two seasons, he has 51 total touchdowns while Wisconsin has gone 22-5.
It’s hard to see Ball’s stock rising any higher than it is at the moment, but with him back in the fold, the Badgers will be considered one of the favorites to claim another Big Ten title. However, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has agreed to become the new head coach at Pittsburgh and will take Badgers offensive line coach Bob Bostad with him. Junior center Peter Konz is also a top NFL prospect who could decide to enter the draft.
But just like highly-touted Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley, it’s hard to fault a guy for enjoying college and wanting to milk that experience for one more season.
More from Washington Post Sports:
Orange Bowl: West Virginia, Geno Smith obliterate Clemson 70-33
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State sends Andrew Luck out with loss
Rose Bowl: Oregon edges Wisconsin in wild shootout