Ready for a Mulligan

His freshman season was cut short because of a nagging groin injury, but redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon is 100 percent healthy and he's running with plenty of confidence.

MADISON - After four spring practices gave way to spring break, redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon wanted to spend his spring break at home, focusing on getting his body right for the important final three weeks of spring football. It appears it was time well spent.

After having his true freshman season cut short with a groin injury, Gordon – who was able to take a medical redshirt – has impressed the coaching staff with his abilities to develop into a playmaker. With Wisconsin looking to utilize three running backs with the first-team offense, Gordon put himself in position to earn that spot, unofficially rushing 21 times for 96 yards during last Saturday's scrimmage.

After Tuesday's practice, Gordon talked with Badger Nation about last season's injury, his progression during spring and what he's learning from Montee Ball and Thomas Hammock.

When you watch tape from Saturday's scrimmage, what impressed you about the way you were able to run between the tackles with that burst you had been looking for?

Gordon: It was good. I definitely have gotten a lot better from the fall scrimmages. I definitely got better running down hill and between the tackles, but there is still room for improvement there, obviously. There were a couple mistakes I seen on him when I watched it. I left some yards out there, but I am hoping to do a lot better this next scrimmage.

Was last year's groin injury a blessing in disguise? You obviously are disappointed having your season cut short after four games, but to not lose a year of eligibility because of it has to excite you?

Gordon: Yeah, you could say that. I didn't think like that because I wanted to play, go out there to make something happen and help the team. Unfortunately that couldn't happen, so it's nice that I get my year of eligibility back. I guess I am grateful because I took a lot of time off and I get those chances and that year back to make myself better.

When did the groin problem first pop up and when did it become a real concern for you that you weren't getting healthy?

Gordon: It was during fall camp that I was practicing with it, scrimmaging with it and playing the first couple games with it. It would get better, then it would get worse and then it would get worse and worse. It never got better, so I knew the only way to get it better was to calm down. I wasn't able to run full sprints, so Coach Bielema decided to sit me out.

What do you take from the three games you did play, learning the game experience and the game speed?

Gordon: I have a comfort level now. Next time I am on the field, I know what to expect. I've been to the end zone and I know how it feels, so I can get that out of the way. That's mainly what it is – getting out on the field as a young player and get comfortable. The first time I was on the field I was real nervous, but the next time I get out there I am hoping to not feel that way and I can just play.

What was winter conditioning like after you got the groin healed and you could start moving forward instead of being stuck in neutral?

Gordon: It was good. The big thing was that I was able to compete with Montee Ball, James White and the top guys on the team. I think that was a big deal because competing with the best guys on the team makes me a better play.

What are some of the things you take away from Montee?

Gordon: I take away from him how to work and how to carry myself on the field. I think everything Montee does as a leader, how hard he works and how he doesn't show that he's tired. You could tell he is a leader and that he carries himself well. He's a good example for me to better myself.

You told me your weight is at 205 pounds. Are you comfortable at that weight heading into the season?

Gordon: When I get to the fall, I want to play at about 210 to 215. Coach (Ben) Herbert wants me to get a little bigger, and he and the coaching staff thinks it's a good weight to be at.

What has it been like working with Thomas Hammock and what has he try to develop in your game to make you a better player?

Gordon: Obviously everyone knows that Coach Hammock is a great coach, an excellent coach, and what I think he tries to install in me is to become stronger mentally. He told me from the beginning that I have the athletic ability, but mentally I still have ways to go. He tries to install that in every running back because in order to play this game, you have to be mentally strong.

How much has the playbook changed from last year to this year with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada?

Gordon: It's definitely worded differently with the terminology. It's the same plays pretty much, but some plays have flip flopped with the terminology. Nothing too difficult right now. I am excited for the offense.

What's the big goal for you moving into Saturday's second scrimmage?

Gordon: I just want to take steps forward. I just want to perform better than what I did before. I want to get more rushing yards, try to block better, get out on my passing routes a lot better and make some plays.

How much fun is it for you to have your old prep teammate – running back Vonte Jackson – up here on campus with you?

Gordon: It's a lot of fun, and I definitely think we are going to make each other better. In high school, we competed hard against each other and wanted to do better than each other. That's how we got better. With him being here, it's going to make us two better players. With him being from my high school, we have a connection, so we are real cool off the field.

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