Dynasty Scouts “Next Man Up” series will profile the players ready to replace departing stars. They’re the talents that have bided their time behind Heisman candidates, or the freshman ready to explode onto the national scene. They may not replicate the production of their predecessors, yet they’re the best person equipped for the job. Many will disappoint, but many others will become the new wave of college football stars.
Wisconsin Badgers RB:
Moving On: Melvin Gordon (343 attempts for 2,587 yards; 32 total touchdowns)
Taking His Place: Corey Clement (147 attempts for 949 yards; 11 total touchdowns)
Next Man Up:
Who is going to replace Melvin Gordon? The answer, quite simply, is nobody. Wisconsin has had a plug and play system at running back in place for many years. Gordon, however, is a unique talent cut from a different cloth than the likes of Montee Ball, Brian Calhoun, and the litany of other Badger backs that have statistically dominated over the past two decades. His combination of size, speed, and natural running instincts is rare. 2,740 total yards and 32 total touchdowns is a video game stat line and is a dominant performance regardless of scheme.
No one individual is going to produce numbers that even approach Gordon’s, and the Badger running game is due to take a step back. But the back poised to pace the Wisconsin offense in 2015 is Corey Clement, a former four star recruit from New Jersey that has piled up nearly 1,500 rushing yards himself despite playing apprentice to Gordon the past two seasons. He’s built for three down work, and has already established himself as one of the Big 10’s better runners despite the back-up designation.
Given how much Wisconsin runs, he should easily surpass 300 carries and is a favorite to lead the nation in rushing. Redshirt freshman and mountain of a man Taiwan Deal is likely to assume Clement’s old role of closer, but there’s little doubt that this will be Clement’s backfield for as long as he wants it.
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Clement was actually a more heralded recruit than Gordon, which is a completely irrelevant anecdote other than to show he’s got the natural talent to be one of college football’s more productive runners. A thickly built, north-south runner that shows impressive burst when needed, he is the perfect fit for a program that routinely gets its backs to the second level thanks to an annually dominant offensive line. Short, quick strides allow him to stealthily maneuver in the open field, and a thick, stocky frame makes him tough for one man to bring down. Clement seems to embrace and thrive on contact.
We have not seen much of him in the passing game, though Wisconsin seldom uses backs – or anyone for that matter – extensively through the air. Much like with Gordon, there’s no reason to suspect Clement cannot be at least passable in the passing game. He’s got the type of vision and patience to excel in the screen game.
In early 2014 devy mocks led by Scott Fish, Clement was going off the board with an average ADP of 12th overall. Over five mocks, he went: 12th; 9th; 13th; 17th; and 9th again. Despite running behind both Gordon and current Patriot James White, he had enough hype to be a highly coveted devy asset with a late-1st ADP.
Fast forward one season, and you’d likely see that ADP dip, through no fault of Clement’s. As more new shiny toys enter the college football landscape, steady, overlooked prospects such as Clement will naturally dip. That makes him a much better value. 12th was a bit aggressive last off-season, in my opinion. If I am investing a 1st round pick in a player – a running back no less – I want that individual to have an exceedingly high ceiling. I do not see the rising junior in that mold.
There’s little doubt that Clement will be one of the more coveted running backs available during off-season devy drafts, both existing ones and start-ups alike. He’s one of the more accomplished returning players in all of college football and has flashed plenty of potential in short stints, albeit often in mop-up time against defenses that have been bludgeoned for sixty minutes by Wisconsin’s massive linemen.
Combine a track record of production at a notable football school, a four star recruit ranking and impressive offer list, and you have someone that should fly off the board quickly. I’d start considering Clement in Round Two of a standard 12 team league, though I’d prefer to wait until Round Three. I see the New Jersey native as a Day Two NFL Draft pick with starter upside, preferably as the steady lead back in a productive committee.
We’re removed the stigma on Badger backs for Melvin Gordon, yet seem to have re-applied it for Clement, which is a bit unfair to him. He’s not in Gordon’s class but is a major upgrade from Montee Ball, who was comically overdrafted due to incredible collegiate production.