Since the mid-1990s, Wisconsin football has been about establishing a solid rushing attack to open up the rest of the offense. The Badgers have had several 1,000-yard rushers in the last 20 years: Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne in the late 90s, Brian Calhoun and P.J. Hill in the mid 2000s and recently Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. Last season, Gordon and the Badgers gave defensive coordinators nightmares, averaging 320 yards per contest. While Gordon was the primary back and gained all the national attention, his backup, Corey Clement, was holding his own and building up a head of steam for this fall.
As a sophomore, Clement rushed for 949 yards and nine touchdowns. While Badger fans may consider this a “quiet” season, multiple teams would love to get those numbers from their starters. Now that he is a favorite for the starting position in 2015, he has a golden opportunity to be the next great running back to don the cardinal and white and perhaps gain the national attention that Gordon did last year.
Clement is more of a speed back than a power back, but what he lacks in power he makes up for with elusiveness. He has the ability to stop on a dime and cut back into the smallest crease to gain extra yardage. This makes him a threat between the tackles and on the edge. When he rushed for 105 yards in the Outback Bowl against Auburn, nearly half of them came on the edge. His one weakness is lack of breakaway speed. He has no problem accelerating through the gaps of the offensive line, but he has a tendency to be chased down by defensive backs. He has a nasty stiff arm to throw if this happens, but he won’t need to use it as much if he can distance himself from opposing tacklers downfield.
Three of the seven Big Ten running backs to win the Walker Award have been Badgers (Dayne, Ball and Gordon). Clement has the perfect opportunity to be the fourth. If he is, it will further establish Wisconsin as “Tailback U.”
Brooks Hooley is a Junior Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @brookshooley.