MADISON - Judging by the look of John Clay's first run with live tackling, the junior tailback is happy to be back in practice.
On that play, Clay took the handoff to the right side of the line and burst past the front four before absolutely bulldozing Kevin Rouse on his way to a bruising 11-yard run.
Needless to say, Clay looked to be back to his old form. Now, with game day a little over a week away, Clay remains focused on getting everything he had back after he sat out all of spring camp.
At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the running back. The following is a question and answer with Clay.
Well, how are your legs holding up?
Clay: Good. I'm getting a lot of rest and a lot of other guys are getting a lot of reps to show what they can do. That's helping me out a lot.
Does it feel good to be back? We all talked about you having healthy ankles earlier during the summer and even during spring camp. Are you noticing it?
Clay: Yeah, I feel real good. It's easier for me to cut and I don't have to round off my cuts too much. Then also, I am able to just accelerate.
Does that feel good?
Clay: Yeah, I feel good, especially after this scrimmage with a short line. In the red zone, getting a chance out there to run with the ones was feeling good. Running and getting hit with the ankle, I feel real good.
What happened out there today (Tuesday)? There was a fumble and a missed exchange.
Clay: My elbows flare up when I get hit. When I get hit on my elbows they kind of numb up and I my fingers started tingling. On the bad handoff, me and Scott Tolzien missed the exchange but we worked on it and got it right.
How does that happen when your hands starts tingling and what do you do to get rid of it?
Clay: I just have to come out, like I had to do right now, just wrap it up. It takes some of the blow away from it when I hit the ground or when I get hit on the helmet.
Are you progressing the way that you wanted to? Are you where you wanted to be at with the game coming up?
Clay: Yeah, I'm feeling real good. I'm getting back into game shape and I feel ready to run the ball as much as I need to and being out there and able to provide for my team.
The other night you were doing some conditioning work. Is your conditioning at a good level?
Clay: Yeah that's just when we have two-a-days. I don't practice during most of the second half of the practice so its me staying conditioned and getting the conditioning I need to be able to run.
What's your weight at right now?
Clay: Right now I'm at like 250 or 245.
Is that where you want to be and do you feel comfortable there?
Clay: Yeah, I feel good. It's enough to have the explosion and the power to be able to run the ball.
Talk about some of these young guys. A lot of guys talk about James White. Has he impressed you too?
Clay: Yeah, right when he came out on the field you could see the difference in what kind of backs we all are. He's the quick, shifty back. He has nice smooth cuts and he's very low to the ground, too. It's very hard for people to notice him and to tackle him.
Clay: Yeah, me and Montee are like the bruisers. We also have speed, but he has the quickness and the speed and quick lateral movement.
Is there anything you're still trying to accomplish through the rest of this week and into UNLV prep?
Clay: Just making sure I'm making less mistakes. I'm just trying to make sure I'm staying focused on offense and making sure I'm doing everything right.
Is that something that will take some time after you've missed all of spring camp? The mental reps?
Clay: Yeah. Just talking with coach and watching film and trying to catch up on all that and asking questions. I'm studying film as much as I need to to be prepared for a game.
How much are you in there?
Clay: A lot actually. Just because I want to be the back to be in there through first, second and third down. I want to be out there on the field when there are blitzes and I need to run the ball or catch it.
Would you say you're good at picking up the blitzes?
Clay: Yeah, I'm getting more comfortable. I'm trusting myself more now that I'm learning a lot and I'm able to read what linebackers I need and watching the safety and the defensive front. That really helps, but being with coach John Settle, he really teaches that.
Have you always been comfortable with picking up blitzes or is that something that's developed over your career here?
Clay: It's developed just because in high school we didn't have to worry about all that. Then coming in my freshman year, I really didn't have to worry about that just because they had Zach and P.J. Hill. All they wanted me to do was just to be able to run the ball. Looking at the next level and what people expect from me, I just want to make sure I can be the every down back.
Have you been satisfied with the way the offense has been rolling so far in camp?
Clay: Yeah, we've been doing real good. We've been getting together and we're getting a nice little rhythm going. Once we get going, we're feeling really good about each other.