Kinlaw Ready to Represent

One of the surprise flips in Wisconsin's 2014 recruiting class, Goose Creek (SC) tailback Caleb Kinlaw got his Christmas gift in November - having the opportunity to play for a world-class running back coach in an offense made for tailbacks.

MADISON - In Thomas Hammock's first season at Wisconsin, he helped Montee Ball lead the nation in rushing, be named a Heisman Trophy finalist and tie Barry Sanders' NCAA record for touchdowns scored in a season.

His following two seasons hasn't seen a drop off in that kind of production. From Ball winning the Doak Walker Award last season to James White becoming a well-rounded tailback and Melvin Gordon being good enough to flirt with the NFL after two only full years, Hammock continues operating Wisconsin's running attack at a high level.

When he started looking into Wisconsin shortly after being offered in late October, Goose Creek (SC) three-star tailback Caleb Kinlaw saw that success Hammock had created and wanted to be a part of it.

"Coach Hammock was the coach talking to me and was telling me that he wanted me," Kinlaw told BadgerNation. "He was a great influence on me, along with my family … When I started looking into the program to see what they were about, that's where my big level of interest came from."

Hammock continues to give Christmas presents to Wisconsin fans and to the Badgers' program with his work recruiting tailbacks. He was big part in convincing Gordon to flip from Iowa and Wisconsin and his assurances/relationship never made true freshman Corey Clement waver after the coaching upheaval last December.

Hammock has outdone himself this recruiting cycle by landing three-star tailback Taiwan Deal, named Maryland's state player of the year, and the 5-11, 180-pound Kinlaw, who was solidly committed to Georgia Tech since late July until Hammock made an appearance at one of his games during Wisconsin's bye week.

"Coach Hammock is not looking for a friendship," said Kinlaw. "He knows this is a business and he was real straight with me, but in a way he treated like a little brother or a son. He always tells me what I need to work on, what you are good at, give you a pat on the back when you are doing well and ridicule you when you are doing wrong, but he'll never leave you hanging if you are doing wrong. He's not going to excuse you. He's going to punish you. He's like a father figure in a way."

Kinlaw saw his potential in the UW offense when he took his official visit on November 9 for the Badgers game against BYU. He saw White rush for 147 yards and two scores, and experience a great game-day atmosphere.

"Everything coach Hammock was telling me about Wisconsin was true," said Kinlaw. "A lot of times in recruiting, people tell you what you want to hear to give you their pitch, but everything coach Hammock said was straight up. He didn't have to boast the school. The fan base is crazy. It was probably one of the best atmospheres I have seen. Just having that fan base behind me is always going to drive me as a player. The running game did a lot. The coaches did a lot with the running game."

A conversation between head coach Gary Andersen, Kinlaw and his parents on his visit sealed the deal. He committed less than a week later.

Kinlaw said Hammock didn't pressure him to commit, but did give him a timeline in which he was hoping he would make a decision. Wisconsin was highly involved with four-star tailback Chris James at the time, and didn't want to lose out if Kinlaw stayed with the Yellow Jackets. After Kinlaw announced his flip, James picked Pittsburgh.

"I always wanted to play at a SEC or Big Ten school," said Kinlaw. "Through May and June, those were the schools on the top of my list, but I didn't have any offers. I just had a lot of interest. When Wisconsin offered me, I jumped on it."

Kinlaw is going to be involved in a crowded, but young, backfield next season. In addition to Deal, Clement and Gordon, UW will hopefully have redshirt sophomore Vonte Jackson, who is coming off his third ACL injury, and five-star tailback Joe Mixon. Mixon is deciding January 4 and UW is in his top three.

While carries will be competitive, Kinlaw said the coaches told him he fits the role of what Wisconsin is losing this season in White – a well-rounded tailback who can catch, run and block.

"Coach Hammock's big message to me is just to compete and be involved next year," said Kinlaw. "I am sure it will be a friendly competition. It's going to be fun. Hammock told me he wanted me to come in and be a similar back to what James White was. He thinks I am a versatile back who blocks well and caught the ball well out of the backfield. Instead of a one-dimensional back, he thought I was an all-purpose back. "

Over his last four years, Kinlaw has already been getting a college-level football education from his head coach. Spending 20 years coaching in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, including four years as the head coach at Baylor, Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy runs an old-school offense that incorporates some option, something Kinlaw said fits well with the direction of Wisconsin.

"Just being around coach Reedy, the way he teaches us to prepare ourselves, the way he does things around school, he does things like we are college players already," said Kinlaw. "When I was going through my decision, just having his wisdom through the whole situation was a blessing."

Despite missing three full games and most of two other games with injuries this past season, Kinlaw rushed for more yards than his entire junior year (1,300 yards to 1,000) and did it in two less carries (131 to 129), something he attributes to running stronger than in previous years because of his extra focus in the weight room and learning patience.

"Coach Reedy taught me about patience and reading the holes better," said Kinlaw. "I used to do too much and run myself out of the play. That was the biggest thing I changed."

Hoping to add speed and strength over the next several months, Kinlaw wants to arrive at Madison between 195 and 200 pounds, and hopes to arrive to a program fresh off a bowl win.

Being heavily outnumbered at his high school fans by South Carolina fans, Kinlaw has been doing his best to wear his Wisconsin garb and cheer on his future school when they play the Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl January 1.

It will be a fun experience for Kinlaw to watch his home state team take on his future team, since he knows it will be a long time before he has another chance to watch Wisconsin from a fan's perspective.

"There aren't too many Wisconsin fans out here, at least not yet, so I've been representing my team," said Kinlaw. "Hopefully they don't let me down."

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