20 Sep

Clement no longer after thought in Badgers’ backfield

first_imgWisconsin’s Corey Clement, shown running against Auburn during the Outback Bowl in January, gets his opportunity as a full-time starter.Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, shown running against Auburn during the Outback Bowl in January, gets his opportunity as a full-time starter.TUSCALOOSA – A year ago at this time, Corey Clement was little more than an afterthought in Wisconsin’s backfield.As far as many outsiders were concerned, the Badgers were a one-man wrecking crew, and that one man was Melvin Gordon.The eventual first-round NFL draft pick more than lived up to the billing, finishing with a nation-leading 2,587 rushing yards for second all-time, only 41 shy of Barry Sanders’ NCAA record 2,628 yards in 1988.But Gordon is now a member of the San Diego Chargers, and the focus of Wisconsin’s vaunted ground game shifts to Clement, who is already a known commodity in his own right.“He’s a good back, regardless. He still rushed for almost 1,000 yards considering what Melvin Gordon did,” Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “We have to prepare the right way for him. You can’t look over his head.“We’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things. He’s a good back. He’s quick, he can run, and he might run over you, too, so you have to bow up for him.”It’ll be a battle of strengths when the No. 3 Crimson Tide and its monstrous front seven face off against the No. 20 Badgers and their power run game in the AdvoCare Classic from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 7 p.m. today.Wisconsin’s 10-year run with at least one 1,000-yard rusher is tops in the country and has been aided by the likes of Gordon, James White, John Clay, P.J. Hill and Brian Calhoun.Now Clement is ready to put his names right next to those, if not ahead of them.“I have been fortunate to be around a lot of great running backs, and I think they’re all different and yet they all have that mindset of wanting to be the best and willing to work at it,” new Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said Wednesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “I’ve been lucky, when I start thinking through all those guys, they’re unselfish players that also know that they shoulder a great responsibility and I welcome that.“They don’t shrink from it. I think that’s part of what makes them great. And I think Corey’s got a lot of the same attributes.”A former four-star tailback out of New Jersey, rated the No. 16 running back in the country in 2013, Clement entered last season wanting to beat out Gordon.But that opportunity never materialized.“I was very, very focused on trying to beat (Gordon) because you’ve got a top, premier running back in the country and you’re behind him, you want to show the country that you can do just as good as him,” Clement told Madison.com.“But that wasn’t my moment. Melvin waited his turn, and now it’s my turn.”After combining for nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Madison, Clement appears motivated by the opportunity in front of him.“I’ve appreciated what he’s done,” Chryst said. “Corey’s played a lot of snaps and been a significant part of this team, and yet it’s been well-documented that his role will be different. I think he’s done everything to this point in preparing himself for that role.”By all accounts, Clement is ready to embrace his new role as the program’s workhorse, and that has many around the state of Wisconsin excited.“Instead of sharing a backfield with Melvin, he’s the clear No. 1 back for us,” Chryst said. “I think he’s excited about that opportunity, and I’ve been impressed with the way he works and prepares himself as best as he can, I think, and we try to help him for the mental part of being that featured guy.”The mental part doesn’t appear to be an issue for the overly self-confident Clement, who has reportedly put a goal of eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark this season, a feat only accomplished by 24 other running backs in NCAA history, including Gordon last season.“Why sell myself short?” Clement told Madison.com. “That’s not the right mindset to have if you put yourself under somebody. It’s not being cocky. It’s just being confident within yourself.”last_img

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