We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Thursday, Nov. 10, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
‘Just another back’
Corey Clement was supposed to be the next great Wisconsin running back, following in the footsteps of Melvin Gordon, James White and Montee Ball. That hasn’t happened, due to injuries, inconsistency along the offensive line, and the offense in general the past two seasons.
But is it more than that? Is Clement just not as good as everyone thought he’d be? That’s apparently the thought according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, who spoke with an unnamed scout about Clement.
“I never got the hype on Corey Clement. He’s a bull-in-a-china-shop back. I mean, he runs hard, don’t get me wrong, but playing in the NFL is about more than running hard. I see him as just another (running) back.” — NFC North scout on the Wisconsin RB
Zierlein projects Clement to be a third-day pick in the NFL draft next spring, meaning between the fourth and seventh round. That’s a far cry from where Clement and some thought he’d be prior to the 2015 season.
After playing second fiddle to Gordon, he was supposed to take over for him last year, but an injury kept him out of eight games and an off-the-field incident forced him to miss another. This year, Clement has battled an ankle injury and has run for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. And though he’s on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards, his per carry average of 4.2 yards would be the lowest for any of Wisconsin’s 16 running backs to reach that total.
Fans and media have been a bit unfair to Clement. It’s what happens when you go from the best running back to ever play at Wisconsin in Gordon to a guy who has a different style and isn’t as explosive. It doesn’t help that at one point this year, the New Jersey native saw more eight-man fronts than just about any other running back in the country.
Still, Clement has also proven that he might not be the field-tilter that those close to the program thought he’d be. He can take a lot of punishment, will fight for extra yards and occasionally break off a long run. But he doesn’t have great vision, lacks patience because he’s looking for the big play too often and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.
So it’s hard to disagree that unnamed scout’s notion that he’s just another back.
Expectations high outside of Madison
Despite the way Wisconsin’s season ended last March — blowing a late lead to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 — the excitement around Gard’s team for the 2016-’17 season is sky high. It’s what happens when you return almost the entire roster from a team that grew leaps and bounds the previous season.
But as high as the expectations are in Madison, they are also pretty high on the outside.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) November 9, 2016
That’s high praise considering two years ago — when the Badgers returned four starters and most of their rotation from the 2013-’14 Final Four team — that three of the four experts at Sports Illustrated also had them ending up playing on the final weekend of the season.
But this year’s picks seem a little bit more out there, just simply because Wisconsin still has questions to answer. Can Nigel Hayes find his shooting touch? Will Bronson Koenig’s offseason dedication turn him into one of the top point guards in the country? Has Ethan Happ developed a jumper to go along with his fantastic inside game? And will the role players around them play at a high enough level?
If you can’t get a yes to at least three of those four questions, then getting to Phoenix will be a tall order.
The talent and the game is there to get it done for Gard. But it’s at least mildly surprising to see those on a national level buying in so early.
As promised, Wisconsin, in cooperation with community leaders, have updated policies at its various athletic venues in the wake of a fan dressing up by wearing a mask of President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck at a football game.
Wisconsin has updated their carry-in policy for events. Unreal they have to say this, but “nooses and ropes” are no longer allowed.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) November 10, 2016
The University took a lot of heat for its initial handling of the incident, allowing the two fans involved to stay in the game. However, this week the school revoked the season tickets of the two fans and have now put policies in place that in the future would lead to the ejection of fans involved in something similar.
“Any person who engages in violent, threatening, abusive or otherwise disorderly conduct which tends to provoke a disturbance or incite violence will be ejected from our events. Threats include statements, actions and behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen as having a purpose to inflict physical harm, even if the person making the threat doesn’t have the ability to carry out the threat. Disorderly conduct does not require that a disruption actually occur. Any spectator carrying a prohibited item may be refused admittance or may be ejected from the venue.
It will further be reiterated that UW Athletics promotes a welcoming atmosphere in its venues and that disrespectful conduct toward others may lead to ejection from the venue. Racist and other offensive behavior is not appropriate for our venues.”
All of that seems like common sense for fans, but clearly it wasn’t before. It’s sad that the school even had to deal with something like this, but it was also an eye-opening lesson for those that thought such acts — especially in Madison — had been left behind decades ago.
Reaction to the election
Put 140 college-aged kids in a room together, and their views on social issues and politics won’t be the same. And that’s no different in the locker rooms of the Wisconsin football and basketball teams.
So in the wake of what some are calling the biggest upset in America’s political history with Donald Trump besting Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States, there were bound to be differing reactions from the Badgers.
No words ….
— Corey Clement (@CoreyClement_6) November 9, 2016
Honestly if you voting for trump I want a head up???
— Derrick D.T Tindal (@TindalIsland) November 9, 2016
Coming in clutch https://t.co/NRcazae4sc
— Maverick (@AnthonyLotti14) November 9, 2016
Man…. As a minority (of the minority) this saddens me…
— Bronson Koenig (@BronsonK_24) November 9, 2016
In a race as divisive as the one the country just went through, it seems likely that some of it carries over into locker rooms. That’s just the nature of it. And dealing with issues — whether political or societal — is another job for the head coach.
Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard has supported his players, most notably Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, in speaking up in recent months over causes that they’re passionate about. And though football coach Paul Chryst hasn’t spoken about it publically, or really even been asked, he’s in tune with his guys.
“Coach Chryst is very aware of social occurrences. He’s brought a bunch of us over to the side and just talked about it,” Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale said earlier this year. “Coach is way too aware for us to sit back and let it happen without talking about it.”
And that’s important in sports, where chemistry and team building is vital to success. Obviously talent is paramount, but some of the best teams at Wisconsin came as a result of guys liking each other, with the ability to have that give-and-take humor between teammates and just meshing as one.
It’s times like this, where the country could not be more divided, that closeness and respect in a locker room becomes even more important.
- Nebraska QB Ryker Fyfe prepared, even if Tommy Armstrong plays
- Iowa’s plan for Jabrill Peppers? Nothing special
- On the road: Michigan heads out of state for just the second time this season
- Michigan State’s weekly QB drama includes confident Damion Terry
- Volatile fan bases? Ohio State ranks high on the list