Sophomore running back Corey Clement showed in his first season with the University of Wisconsin football team how much he relishes contact.
“I strive off that,” Clement said following a recent spring practice.
So you just knew how much it was bothering him after UW coach Gary Andersen said junior Melvin Gordon and Clement, the Badgers’ top two running backs, would not be tackled this spring.
“I just hate being let out of contact,” Clement said. “That’s what makes me even hungrier, to run somebody over. I don’t want to come off as soft to somebody else. I don’t want anybody disrespecting me.”
Clement got his wish on Friday at Camp Randall Stadium during the first major scrimmage of the spring — and the first time UW practiced outside.
The scrimmage lasted about 80 plays and was devoted mostly to running the ball and stopping the run. After some urging on the part of Clement, he even got a chance to carry the ball and be tackled.
“He was excited, having an opportunity to run a little bit,” Andersen said. “He definitely had asked for that as we went through the last couple days of spring. It was good for him. He wanted to do it and I kind of agreed with him.”
Clement ended up being one of the few highlights in an otherwise lackluster scrimmage that was hindered by the absence of all the injured players.
He popped through the left side of the line and nobody was able to track him down on a 68-yard touchdown run.
Clement also broke two other runs of 18 yards, finishing with an unofficial 112 yards on 11 carries. The highlight for the defense was when redshirt freshman Austin Ramesh was stopped on four consecutive runs from the 1.
“There was give and take on both sides,” Andersen said. “The offense ran the ball very well early, especially when Corey was in there. He did a nice job and had some nice holes.
“Then it kind of flipped the other way. The defense did a nice job on the goal-line stand for four snaps in a row and did some good things on third-and-2 down there.”
Tough outing for QBs
It was not a good day overall for the quarterbacks, though much of that can be blamed on the decimated receivers group.
The Badgers have had four healthy receivers for most of the week and one of them was junior A.J. Jordan, who had been playing safety after moving from receiver to defense during bowl practices.
Earlier in spring, Andersen said Jordan had a chance to start at safety. Despite that, Andersen said Jordan has “embraced the situation” after moving back to receiver on Thursday.
“He understands we need him to be there,” Andersen said. “... He’s going to help this football team, whether it’s wide receiver or safety.”
The quarterback who struggled the most was junior Joel Stave. That should not be a surprise, given he was limited by a shoulder injury early in the spring and didn’t get full clearance until Tuesday.
Stave was 2 of 7, with both completions on short passes. He had two passes that should have been intercepted but were dropped and he was sacked.
Andersen didn’t want to be too critical of the short-handed receivers, but mentioned two throws by junior Tanner McEvoy that could have been caught.
The quarterback who did the most was freshman D.J. Gillins. Twice on third downs, he scrambled for first downs, including a 39-yard run. Gillins also contributed to the only other touchdown, a 10-yard pass to tight end Eric Steffes.
“He’s playing with a very young crew,” Andersen said . “There are a lot of moving pieces to an offense. I thought he made some plays when he had to.”
While it wasn’t evident in the scrimmage, the passing game is making strides in practice.
“I think anybody that comes to practice can see we’re a little bit better in practice than we have been,” Andersen said. “Hopefully that continues.”
The Badgers continue to move players to new positions on a regular basis.
Junior safety Michael Trotter is now at inside linebacker. Junior Joe Schobert is going back to outside linebacker after being tried at inside linebacker.
Those are in addition to the moves made Thursday, with junior Michael Caputo going back to safety after trying field linebacker and Jordan going to wide receiver.
“We’ve got to toughen up on the run,” Andersen said of beefing up the inside linebacker spots. “I think it’s mostly run fits, it’s not really a physicality issue.”
When asked about his $300,000 pay raise for the upcoming season, Andersen gave all of the credit to athletic director Barry Alvarez. “All I can say about that stuff is I’ve got a great boss and I love the situation I’m in,” Andersen said. “He takes care of people. It’s a great working environment for all of us. I’m looking forward to the future.” ... Starting next week, the Badgers will devote about 10 minutes of each practice to LSU, their opponent in the season opener.