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Wisconsin tailback Corey Clement hoping to use Holiday Bowl as a springboard into 2016

Speaking for the first time since Nov.24, Wisconsin tailback Corey Clement addresses returning for his senior year, his health for the Holiday Bowl and the off-campus incident that led to him being cited twice for disorderly conduct.

MADISON – When the calendar turns to 2016 in nine days, few people are going to celebrate the start of a new year more than Wisconsin tailback Corey Clement.

“I’m just waiting for the ball drop for 2016 to come around,” said Clement. “I’m really not liking 2015 too much and I don’t think it’s liking me either.”

From injuries to off-the-field trouble, nobody suffered more disappointment on the Wisconsin football roster than Clement, a big reason why he said he is “100 percent” returning for his senior season.

Emerging from Melvin Gordon’s shadow into the starting tailback role this offseason, Clement put huge expectations on his shoulders from the beginning of the season, saying that 2015 was going to be known as the “uprising of Corey Clement.”

It’s been anything but, as a sports hernia suffered at the end of fall camp has limited him to only three games, 155 yards and four touchdowns.

Clement got the notion he would return for 2016 in early October as he started recovery from his surgery. He concluded it was the right decision after talking to his family, head coach Paul Chryst and running back coach John Settle and didn’t bother to send it for a N.F.L. draft evaluation to find out where he was potentially could be drafted.

“This year is really a waste to me, and I can’t do anything, so why even try to put myself out there and try to go to the next level when I haven’t really put out much tape,” said Clement. “I’ve only played two years as a backup. I really didn’t get the primary role that I want to play in. I was really fooling myself that I want to go to the next level already.”

Clement opened his media availability, his first since Nov.24, by apologizing to the University for his actions in a Nov.8 incident at his off-campus apartment that caused him to be cited for two counts of disorderly conduct.

According to the police report, Clement incited a brawl with a group of seven to eight Asian-Americans with “repeated use of ‘derogatory and sexually explicit language’ toward the girlfriend of one of the two Asian men cited.” He said he was not intoxicated at the time of the incident, which was captured on security video

“I just wished it never happened,” said Clement. “The action really doesn’t reflect who I am.”

To make matters worse, Clement lied about the incident to UW officials, causing the athletic department to put out an inaccurate press release on Nov.12 that painted Clement as an incident bystander.

“Just too caught up in the moment,” Clement said when asked why he wasn’t truthful to begin with. “I just thought of any best answer to say as fast as I could. Not try to cover myself up, but I really didn’t have a train of thought at the time. I just said whatever came to my mind.”

He was presumably suspended for Wisconsin’s regular season finale, a 31-21 victory at Minnesota, but his status for the Holiday Bowl against USC in San Diego (Dec. 30 at 9:30 p.m.) remains up in the air. He said he’s feeling better each day after practicing three days in a row for the first time all season, but said he is still around 85 percent.

“Every day I am taking it one step at a time,” said Clement. “Hopefully one practice can lead to another. Pretty soon I’ll be practicing with the guys.”

Chryst added he hopes Clement can play to use it as a springboard for next season.

“I’ve liked how he’s handed it since the end of our season,” said Chryst. “ … He’s owned the responsibility. You always feel better when players kind of get it, this is why this is important.”

When asked what his goal is for next season, Clement gave a two-word answer: to play.

“That’s primary, just to play the number one role that I’ve dreamed of doing,” said Clement. “Grabbing the guys around me (and) putting this team on the path that we should be, and that’s making it to the playoffs.”

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