Big Ten: Christian Okoye
October, 8, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
John Clay's body is both a blessing and a curse.
Not many college running backs look like Clay. Not many 6-foot-1, 248-pound men boast the combination of speed, agility and power that he has. Clay is an impressive specimen. But he's also just a kid.
|Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire|
|John Clay has rushed for 326 yards in the Badgers' last two games.|
"When you met John Clay when he was a sophomore in high school," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said, "he looked like he should be a sophomore in college."
Clay is now a sophomore in college, but he has a hard time convincing people of that fact. He has a grown man's body, and the grown man's expectations that come with it.
"You look at him, you see this big man, and you kind of forget he’s only 20 and still a young guy, so to speak," Badgers running backs coach John Settle said. "You forget he hasn’t been here four years, and there’s some development that needs to take place. Some guys mature and grow faster than others. He was just a guy I felt like needed to come in and have some success early.
"Right now, he's playing with a lot of confidence."
Clay is starting to complement his physical gifts with greater maturity, and the Badgers are benefiting. Big time. The sophomore has combined for 326 rush yards and four touchdowns in his last two games, recording 32 carries in both contests.
He earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after exploding for 184 yards and three scores last Saturday at Minnesota. More impressive was the fact that 159 yards came in the second half, as he pounded away at the Gophers' defense.
"I used to focus on running away from people instead of just punishing them," said Clay, who leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally in rushing yards with 584. "But now I’m doing it vice versa, trying to punish them and wear them down and then use my speed to get away."
Clay's emergence comes at the perfect time for Wisconsin, which puts its perfect record on the line Saturday against No. 9 Ohio State in Columbus (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
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