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April 19, 2014
Spring Wrap Up: Running backs
MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.
Today we'll move on to the running backs, after I previewed the quarterbacks on Thursday.
Melvin Gordon is ready to go
The Badgers did what they needed to do in spring camp: they kept Gordon healthy by limiting his reps and keeping him out of most tackling drills all together. They're going to depend on consistent production from him in 2014 to keep their offense humming, and couldn't risk slowing him up with too many nagging injuries.
In the reps he did get it was clear that the Badgers have the makings of another very strong rushing attack with Gordon as their No. 1 running back. Gordon looked fluid and powerful- especially in space. And if the Badgers can add a dimension or two to his player's skillset, like catching passes out of the backfield or improving his pass blocking, there's no reason why the Badgers can't have another potent rushing attack with Gordon at the helm.
Corey Clement is ready for more responsibility
Clement looked more explosive than he did as a freshman last year, which is good news for the Badgers. They need to replace a dependable running back in James White, and based on Clement's stellar freshman season and a strong performance in spring camp it seems like he's more than ready to pick up the slack behind Gordon.
Clement will need to work on his pass blocking, but that's a skill that develops over time. If Clement keeps stepping his game up the Badgers should have an explosive rushing offense for the second season in a row, even when Gordon needs to take a break on the bench for a few plays. That's an invaluable weapon for a team that has so many questions left to answer about their passing game.
Wanted: No. 3 running back
Gordon and Clement seem likely to divide up the reps in the same way that Gordon split his carries with James White. But that still leaves a few reps open for a younger running back to step in and assume Clement's role from last year.
Right now the likeliest candidate seems to be incoming freshman Taiwan Deal. At 6-foot-2, 225-pounds Deal is a little bigger than the rest of the running backs on Wisconsin's current roster, which could give him a leg up on the competition as a change of pace runner.
Time will tell if Deal performs as well as Clement did as a true freshman, but the Badgers would certainly welcome the chance to break in another running back as soon as possible- especially since Gordon could leave for the NFL after the 2014 season.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.