The latest in the long line of Badger backfield battering rams, Racine’s own John Clay inherits the mantle of Wisconsin workhorse this year from the departed P.J. Hill.
In a disappointing 2008, Clay gave cheeseheads a reason to be optimistic about the future. The 250-pound redshirt sophomore punished opposing defenses for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. He ran for 884 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
Unlike many young runners, Clay didn’t just show flashes of brilliance last year. He actually proved to be a reliable complement to Hill, running for nearly 70 yards per game. In an October win over Illinois that ended a four-game losing streak, Clay toted the rock 25 times for 88 yards. He followed that up with 14 carries for 111 yards and a score a week later in a one-point loss at Michigan State.
This year, the Baby Badgers enter a new cycle, with a starting lineup on offense that looks to be dominated by underclassmen. That doesn’t mean Wisconsin’s tried and true offensive philosophy of three yards and a cloud of dust will be revamped. Expect Bret Bielema to call Clay’s early and, most importantly, often in ’09. Homerism thinks we’ll see the big fella on the all-Big Ten team in November as the conference’s leading rusher.