Badgers' Clement ready for bigger impact

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
9:00
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Because Wisconsin doesn't have much depth at running back this spring, coach Gary Andersen is keeping Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement away from almost all contact drills.

That's not sitting too well with Clement, who would be lowering his pads and leg-driving through traffic if he had his way.

"That's what I strive off of," he told ESPN.com. "Contact makes me rage more for yards. That's what brings out the best in me.

"It's very unusual for me not to be in contact with anybody else, but I have to keep fresh because that's what our head coach wants. I know my time will come."

[+] EnlargeCorey Clement
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDespite being third on the depth chart, Corey Clement ran for 547 yards, 7 TDs and averaged 8.2 yards per carry.
Yes, Clement figures to get plenty of opportunities once the season begins. And there should be no doubt about his impact, both literally and figuratively.

As a true freshman in 2013, he made a lot out of a little. Appearing almost exclusively in mop-up work behind Gordon and senior James White, he still managed to run for 547 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 8.2 yards per carry. He ran for 101 yards in his college debut against UMass in the opener, then followed that up with 149 yards and two touchdowns a week later vs. Tennessee Tech. He also went over 100 yards against Indiana, joining White and Gordon as the triple-headed, triple-digit rushers each time in those blowout wins.

With White gone, Clement is set to take on a much bigger role in the Badgers backfield, potentially forming a dynamic duo with Gordon, just as White did with Montee Ball and then Gordon did with White.

"I believe we can only beat ourselves," he said. "I believe we can be the best tandem if our teammates help us out with that."

The arc sure seems familiar. Clement's numbers as the third wheel in his first season of full action closely resemble those of Gordon's in 2012. Gordon ran for 621 yards and averaged 10 yards per carry as a redshirt sophomore, then blew up for 1,609 rushing yards last season.

Many expect Clement to enjoy the same trajectory, but he's not viewing himself as mirroring his predecessor.

"I've always wanted to create my own path," he said. "I don't want to follow any anybody else. It's all about creating your own legacy and doing what you have to do make a name for yourself."

There are style differences between the two backs, as Gordon is a 6-foot-1 long-strider who is most dangerous when he can get out on the perimeter. The 5-11, 210-pound Clement enjoys pounding the ball up the middle. He's itching to do that right now.

"He's unbelievably competitive and is frustrated," Andersen said with a laugh. "Corey's handling that well, but trust me -- every single day, he wants to get in and get tackled, and he wants to run in between the tackles."

Clement is a gifted runner, but like all young tailbacks, he needs to improve his understanding of pass protection and blocking. Those are things that took Ball time to learn, and even Gordon struggled with it at times last season. Andersen also wants Clement to develop in the screen game, so mental reps and non-tackling drills take priority this spring.

"I'm just trying to get everything down," Clement said. "It's already hard, and trying to accumulate it all in one spring is kind of hard. But I'll get used to it, eventually."

Clement said he learned about the importance of paying attention to detail during his freshman season, and he had to focus on learning to practice right during the middle of the season when his game day opportunities evaporated. There's usually a line of succession for handoffs at Wisconsin, but the player who starred as a running back most of his young life in New Jersey had to adjust to that.

"I wasn't mad about it, but it made me a lot more eager and anxious to get out on field," he said, "because I'd never been a third-stringer."

His time to shine arrives this fall. Don't be surprised if Clement makes a deep impact.

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