Badgers football: Melvin Gordon glad he decided to stay in state — and not go away to Iowa

2013-10-23T09:55:00Z Badgers football: Melvin Gordon glad he decided to stay in state — and not go away to IowaTOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

Sophomore running back Melvin Gordon still regards it as one of the most difficult things he has ever had to do.

Gordon gave a non-binding oral commitment to Iowa in August of 2010 going into his senior year at Kenosha Bradford. It stayed that way for three months before a desire to stay closer to home led him to change his mind, de-commit from the Hawkeyes and switch to the University of Wisconsin around Thanksgiving.

“Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, de-committing from them, because I had a really good relationship with the running backs coach, Lester Erb,” Gordon said after practice on Tuesday. “It was hard telling him I wanted to de-commit.”

Erb spent the previous 13 seasons at Iowa, including the last five as running backs coach, before leaving at the end of last season to pursue other opportunities. He is now the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at Nevada.

After Gordon mustered up the courage to make the call, Erb told him he wanted to meet with him face-to-face, so he made a trip to Bradford.

“He came up and visited my school and I talked to him in person about it,” Gordon said. “It was definitely tough for me.”

With the 22nd-ranked Badgers traveling to Iowa a week from Saturday, following this week’s bye, it will be the first chance for Gordon to face the Hawkeyes, who most recently played UW in 2010.

“It’s going to be fun,” Gordon said with a big grin.

Given how close the stands at Kinnick Stadium are to the opposing bench, Gordon will likely hear plenty about his change of heart.

“I might,” Gordon said. “They’re probably over it, but we’ll see.”

Fat chance Hawkeyes fans have forgotten about Gordon, who leads the Big Ten Conference and ranks third nationally in rushing at 144.6 yards per game. Nobody has done more, with less, this season than the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Gordon, who is not the preferred starter. Senior James White has started six of the seven games, with Gordon’s only start coming against Ohio State.

Gordon has rushed for 1,012 yards on just 107 carries, an average of 9.2 yards per carry, which leads all Football Bowl Subdivision players with at least 50 attempts.

He is the most explosive runner in the nation — and it’s not close. He leads or is tied for the FBS lead in runs of at least 20 yards (11), 30 yards (7), 50 yards (4), 60 yards (4), 70 yards (3) and 80 yards (1).

UW coach Gary Andersen said he’s never been around a running back as dynamic as Gordon.

“He’s a unique football player,” Andersen said. “He’s a special football player. He is what college football has really turned into, in my opinion in a lot of ways, and that’s every single time the young man touches the ball, somebody or some coach somewhere is taking a big deep breath and saying, ‘Watch out. Where’s this going to stop?’ It could go all the way every single time he touches it, and we’ve seen that.”

Defenses still haven’t figured out a way to stop the jet sweep, when Gordon lines up wide, goes in motion across the formation and is running at top speed when he gets the handoff from the quarterback.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman said the speed with which Gordon gets to the corner and the blockers he has on the edge make it difficult to defend.

“You might take a bubble (screen) and there might be wide receivers out there blocking,” Beckman said. “With what they do a lot of times, it’s tight ends on the perimeter blocking. That has made it advantageous.

“They are such a great power and zone running football team, this is just an added dimension that gets the ball on the perimeter for them quickly.”

And if defenses focus too much attention on the outside, the Badgers can fake it to Gordon and give it to White up the middle.

“You’ve got to be really disciplined,” Gordon said of defenses. “If you overflow with too many guys toward me, James might pop it up the middle. Or if you focus too much on James. I might pop it.”

Needless to say, given what a great fit Gordon is for UW’s offense, he hasn’t spent much time wondering how things might have turned out at Iowa. But UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock sometimes needles his player about picking the Hawkeyes first.

“My coach gives me a hard time about it sometimes, ‘You probably could have been a starter at Iowa,’ ” Gordon said.

“I don’t think about it too much.”

Gordon’s decision to stay closer to home has paid dividends in other ways, too. His mom is a frequent visitor at practice, trying to come once a week.

“It’s good to have support,” Gordon said. “Not everybody’s mother or father can come here to support them. She’s not only supporting me but supporting other guys, whose mothers can’t make it.”

In addition to his relationship with Erb, the same things that appeal to Gordon about UW are what he liked about Iowa.

“The offensive linemen are big, they’re physical, same as here,” he said. “It’s almost the same, just different colors. Wisconsin was just closer to home.”

And Gordon couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out.

“Things are working out perfectly fine for me here,” he said. “Who knows how things would have worked out if I went to Iowa, but I am happy with how I’m doing here.”

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(12) Comments

  1. nipstic
    Report Abuse
    nipstic - October 25, 2013 12:21 am
    Define "a lot". Just perused a dozen well-known sites and saw exactly one project him in the first round. You can bet NFL teams will be mighty apprehensive about his lack of big time carries between the tackles. He also needs to show he can catch, show he can block and put at least 10 more pounds on his frame.

    Also, don't underestimate how much MG is enjoying college life and how much he is looking forward to being THE big man on campus next year, along with having his cousin join the team.

    Finally, he only needs to look down the line of great UW backs for examples of the elite status he could attain in Madison if he stays. You notice no one mentions Brian Calhoun and Michael Bennett when talking about the greatest in UW history despite their numbers. Why? They left early. And how did those trips to the NFL go? Mediocre and nonexistent respectively.

    No one is going to fault him either way but the rationale for going pro isn't nearly as clear cut as many are making it out to be.
  2. Hawk7458
    Report Abuse
    Hawk7458 - October 24, 2013 6:16 pm
    Just a FYI.Iowa's line is also huge! By the way, in the past 10 years OSU has put 66 players in the NFL. Followed by Iowa with 42,and Nebraska follows with 39. Then Wisconsin. Per "The Big Ten Blog on 04/23/2012.
  3. Cornelius Gotchberg
    Report Abuse
    Cornelius Gotchberg - October 23, 2013 1:27 pm

    I knew if he had red-shirted, he'd be eligible to enter the draft. I didn't think he had.

    The selfish way to look at things (subjectively) would be to have him stay to further Bucky's (and by selfish extension, our) prospects.

    The right way to look at things (objectively) would be as if he were a family member or friend.

    Would you want him to risk career-ending injury for multi-million$ (some guaranteed) or for room & board (all guaranteed)?

    I'd advise the former. We're very fortunate to have the two most productive backs in NCAA history (Dayne for yards and Ball for TD's) stick around for all four years.

    I'll settle for the known Universe referring to Bucky in a manner befitting that which is listed above: TAILBACK U!!!


    The Gotch
  4. BadgerBacker1
    Report Abuse
    BadgerBacker1 - October 23, 2013 12:45 pm

    Gordon is a redshirt sophomore, so he is 3 years removed from HS and free to go after this season.
  5. Davisra
    Report Abuse
    Davisra - October 23, 2013 11:51 am
    That O-line helped bring in Russell Wilson too! I'm hoping Melvin sticks around - he could be in the running for the Heisman now that the rest of the country is taking notice of him.
  6. Yoopermn
    Report Abuse
    Yoopermn - October 23, 2013 11:35 am
    A good example of how important LOCATION is for many recruits...and why it can be difficult to pull guys to UW from FL, CA , etc.
  7. Yoopermn
    Report Abuse
    Yoopermn - October 23, 2013 11:34 am
    He will likely be projected 1st round if he keeps this up. It will be completely on him and whether he sees the benefit of further development...let's hope so! Certainly couldn't fault him for wanting to go pro though.
  8. saveme
    Report Abuse
    saveme - October 23, 2013 11:06 am
    Gordon is draft eligible after the season. A lot of mock drafts have him going late in the 1st round, so there is a good chance he is gone.
  9. WiscoHawk
    Report Abuse
    WiscoHawk - October 23, 2013 10:47 am
    No doubt a great runner. Doubt Iowa fans will have much to say as he piles up the yards. With that said the best photo to show future recruits is a picture of the O-lines hands for they are the best at holding in the BT.
  10. Cornelius Gotchberg
    Report Abuse
    Cornelius Gotchberg - October 23, 2013 10:13 am

    You have to be at least three years removed from your graduating HS class to go pro; MGIII shouldn't be eligible.

    He's a special, almost innate, kind of runner! Like Brett Moss between the tackles, low pad level and always falling forward. Yet strong with GREAT balance and break-away speed on the edge.

    Opposing DC's have to game plan around him which opens up opportunities for others.

    You know, Iowa did get Jarrod Uthoff.


    I don't think so either!


    The Gotch
    Report Abuse
    ABDGRFN - October 23, 2013 9:47 am
    Unfortunately I've heard reporters on radio shows twice talking about him turning pro after this season.
    I hope that they are talking just to fill air time. Melvin is a great player to watch and I think that it's safe to say every Badger fan is glad he changed his mind,

  12. RichardSRussell
    Report Abuse
    RichardSRussell - October 23, 2013 4:57 am
    If the Wisconsin recruiters are trying to land top HS running backs, they should just send them a picture of the Badger O-line standing next to a normal human being.

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