"He better be worth the effort," UW running backs coach John Settle joked with a smile.
The top-ranked running back in the state, Gordon originally committed to Iowa, but reopened his commitment halfway through the season. Both Settle and head coach Bret Bielema pointed to Wisconsin's convincing victory over Ohio State as a possible turning point in Gordon's mind.
Bielema said his goal every year is to recruit just one running back, and in Gordon, the Badgers have a good one. Settle was almost giddy talking about what he brings to the team.
"He shows toughness, can run between the tackles, but the added dimension is his top-end speed," Settle said. "We got really fast last year with Montee Ball and James White, and now we have gotten even faster."
As with every running back at UW, Gordon will be given an opportunity to play right away if he proves he is up to it. To that end, Gordon has been hitting the weight room since the season ended to add some weight to his 6-foot frame.
"The thing I like about him is he is already beginning to put on weight and get bigger," Settle said. "He will be able to come in right away and have an opportunity to compete for playing time. He will get in the weight room, get with our strength coach and go to work."
When One Watt Closes, Another Watt Opens
Badger fans may not have to wait long before screaming the name Watt again.
With J.J. taking his talents to Sundays, UW brought in the younger brother, Derek Watt with the 2011 recruiting class. And just like J.J., Derek displays many of the same traits that made the elder Watt such an esteemed Badger.
"We wanted Derek to make sure he understood we are recruiting Derek, and not J.J.'s younger brother," Partridge said. "We are very well aware that there is a tradition laid there that you are going to be a leader, you are going to be a hard- worker, tenacious and everything you want in this game and Derek displays that."
While comparisons will follow Derek for much of his career, you can bet it will be an early goal for Watt to add his own legacy to the family name.
"I think he is proud of what his younger brother accomplished but like any younger brother — I am a younger brother myself — he will want to come in and make a name for himself as well," Partridge said.
The Next David Gilbert?
With the Badgers leading pass rusher heading to the NFL, UW will have an opening for someone with the skills and hustle to get to the quarterback to make a name for himself in camp.
Just as Gilbert worked exclusively as a pass rusher in his true-freshman year, both incoming defensive ends James Adeyanju and Jesse Hayes will be given an opportunity in camp to see if they can make an impact.
"I think potentially both of those guys," Partridge said. "They both have talent, they both have great demeanor and great bloodlines. I think both will come in to compete."
The Right Way To Go
For the second straight year, the Badgers have scored big with recruits that were initially committed to other schools. The 2010 recruiting class boasts four decommits — including Konrad Zagzebski from Minnesota and Warren Herring from Kansas State — and the 2011 class brought three more in Gordon, Devin Gaulden and Kenzel Doe.
For UW, the route to these players is simple: Just wait nicely.
According to Bielema and Partridge, the process for players who have committed else where is something like this: "Congratulations, we wish you the best of luck, and if anything changes, we will still be here."
This calm and kind approach has paid wonders (with David Gilreath likely the most prominent example).
"Believe it or not, there are some coaches out there when someone commits to another school, there reaction is with venom," Partridge said. "They start bashing the school they have committed to and go that route. We believe and I believe as well, to treat the kid with respect and to honor his choice. At the same time to make sure he understands that it is not binding, things change and if you come to light and learn more about the program, we are here."