Melvin Gordon thrust himself onto the national stage last season with a sophomore campaign that earned him a spot on the Heisman watch list midway through the year. With that success came the possibility of playing at the professional level sooner rather than later. Much to the delight of those involved with the Badger football program, and the fans that cheer for it, Melvin Gordon decided to return to Wisconsin for at least one more season.
The redshirt junior running back who amassed a team-high 1,609 rushing yards, averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns last season, Gordon will enter the 2014 season as one of the nation’s top backs. His performance throughout last year put a lot of potential NFL buzz around the running back, even as he shared the backfield with senior James White.
The buzz was strong enough that Gordon considered leaving for the NFL, prompting him to request a draft evaluation. The evaluation would give Gordon a general sense of where he would be selected in May’s draft. It came back saying Gordon would be a second-round pick and Gordon felt with a strong combine and offseason, he could even bump himself into the first round. There were reports that claimed Gordon could even be the first running back off the board come May.
But that is all speculation and Gordon said he made up his mind to return to UW even before he received the evaluation back.
His quickness and agility will be back in a Wisconsin backfield for at least one more season. With the first week of spring practice in the books, Gordon, who head coach Gary Andersen said won’t be tackled at all in spring practice, is looking to round-out his game in the next few weeks.
“My goal is to just get better on everything,” Gordon said. “And I want to work on everything, as far as blocking, catching, getting better on cuts and recognizing defenses. That’s my focus. So I’m just trying to better myself out here, so come game time, I’ll be ready.”
This upcoming season will usher in a new era for college football, as the highly-ridiculed BCS system is out the door and in its place is a four-team playoff that will be used to determine a national champion. Gordon says the focus in spring practice has to be getting everybody better on the field, knowing that teams will have to play well throughout the whole season to earn one of the coveted spots in the playoffs. Individual goals for Gordon are in the back of his mind, but are certainly far behind the main goal of reaching the playoffs at the end of the season.
“My focus is just getting to the playoffs,” Gordon said. “There’s four teams. It will be difficult this year. You have to play good football to get there. The individual goals, you know I’m not worried about those. Those will come. If we get to the playoffs, you know somebody’s doing good. So that’s my main focus right now, getting those guys there.”
As is usually the case with the Badgers, Gordon won’t be carrying the load in the backfield by himself this season. Sophomore running back, Corey Clement, will look to build on a strong freshman campaign in which he ran for 555 yards and seven touchdown. He sees spring practice as a chance for himself and Gordon to compete with one another and make each other better.
“What I’m looking forward to most is just competing with Melvin,” Clement said. “He’s my biggest competitor in here so I just have to grind. Me and him both want the number one spot and it’s just not going to come easy. So I have to push him, he has to push me. That’s one of my biggest goals in spring ball, to make sure we push each other.”
Both Gordon and Clement see themselves as being the next exciting one-two running back combination at Wisconsin. Clement wants to see himself and Gordon improve upon the most recent formidable backfield duo of Gordon and White. It’s something that Clement believes they can achieve with the work that they’re putting in right away in spring practices.
“I’m not a stingy person but we’re all about the one-two system here,” Clement said. “Melvin and I can do a great job, tandem wise. No disrespect to James [White], he was here last year, I believe we can do a lot better. Not trying to downgrade [White] at all but you have to improve every season. So with the work we’re putting in this season, I believe we can do a lot better.”
Despite having a proficient one-two combination, Gordon will likely be the feature back at Wisconsin this season and garner the most attention from opposing defenses. If the past is any indication, he will continue to improve and amass even larger numbers than he did last season.
After this season the NFL buzz will likely return to Gordon and he will have to make another decision. But for now, Gordon says he isn’t thinking about that at all. Right now, his focus on getting better and preparing for the highly anticipated season opener against SEC foe, LSU, Aug. 30th.
“I’m not even focused on that, leaving right now,” Gordon said. “It’s a long season and we have a lot of work to do. Leaving and all that stuff right now is not even my focus. Right now I’m just worried about LSU.”