MADISON – Junior tailback Corey Clement used the word “awesome” to describe his Tuesday practice with the University of Wisconsin. Wearing a big smile and a sweat-drenched gray t-shirt, it was evident that Clement is getting closer to returning to the field for the first time since Sept.5.
“I felt very good out there, better than last week,” said Clement. “I think last week was a little bit of a stepping stone, just getting back on my feet. Just going through the play calls and hearing the plays once again was good to hear football talk.”
The amount of time, and frequent flier miles, have added up for Clement as he tries to rejoin a running back rotation in desperate need of a kick start before playing Illinois (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten). After Wisconsin’s 35-17 loss to Alabama in the season opener, a game in which Clement finished with 16 yards on eight carries and two receptions for 19, he admitted he aggravated his left groin four days before the game.
He sat out the next two games (Miami and Troy) while he tried to regain his strength. When the discomfort continued and a MRI was ordered, discovering a pair of sports hernias, prior to the Sept.26 Hawaii game, Clement was given a 4-to-6 week timeframe to return following surgery. He flew to Germany the week of Sept. 27, underwent the surgery with a world-renowned sports hernia specialist and returned to campus Oct. 4. He went through pregame warmups prior to Saturday’s 24-7 win over Purdue, just a little more than two weeks following the procedure.
Clement said it was his choice not to play, saying he didn’t want to go out there “fooling himself” into thinking he was 100 percent. He made the decision to not play after halftime, saying he was hesitant in the first half to play.
“You just have to be smart at that point in time,” said Clement. “I feel as if they didn’t need me. Got the win out of it and that’s all you can ask for.”
The junior said the results of the surgery make the risk of re-injury small. Unlike the Alabama game, where Clement felt he set himself back by trying to push through the problem, Clement isn’t worried about a setback because he knows exactly what his health situation is. The battle right now is 50 percent mental and 50 percent physical.
“I think those two go hand in hand,” said Clement. “I can only go out each day and try to perform at my best. If I feel some aches here and there, I know it’s part of the surgical process. I am not going to feel 100 percent just like that. I’ve got to take that into consideration and try to build upon each day.”
The biggest thing Clement says he needs to see in himself in order to play is the ability to hit top speed in practice, something that is still not quite at the level he expects out of himself. He has been hit, purposely going up against defensive end Alec James and some other defenders to see how body would react.
“Hopefully I can get in a tackle this week and see how that feels,” said Clement. “I don’t want to take a first hit in a game.”
Listing himself day-to-day, Clement will travel with the team to Champaign, Ill., Friday and again go through warmups to determine if he can contribute in a critical Big Ten West division contest.
“I’m not pressing anything, saying I want to play or not,” said Clement. “That can only be determined when I wake up Saturday morning.”