MADISON – As Corey Clement waited patiently for a throng of television cameras to get set up around him, the senior tailback delivered the words many have been thinking: “is it game time yet?”
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m pretty amped up.”
One of the central figures for Wisconsin’s offense entering its key nonconference matchup with No.5 LSU Saturday, Clement is going through the same process that he entered last season with, only this time his health isn’t being called into question.
A year ago Clement was anxious to use his matchup against No.3 Alabama as a statement game for himself, even though he could tell he wasn’t quiet at 100 percent. After rushing for only 16 yards on eight carries, Clement was misdiagnosed with a groin injury when in reality he needed double sports hernia surgery. By the time the season was over, Clement appeared in only four games, none of them healthy.
All of those aliments for Clement are in the past.
“I feel great,” Clement said. “I’m ready to go out and execute with everything I’ve been working towards up until this game. Just extremely blessed for the opportunity to come out here again and put it on for this team that I’m working with all summer and all year.”
In addition to his role at tailback, Clement was listed as the No.2 kickoff returner behind junior Natrell Jamerson. Whether he works as a returner is a decision he says will be determined by wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore, but Clement said he’d bring a “running back-style” to the role.
“I won’t hit it like a true kick returner; I would try to set it up like I’m playing running back,” Clement said. “Actually getting a chance to lead up to the blockers would probably be better for myself just to see how blocking gets set up. I’ll think I’ll be able to bring something to that aspect.”
In part because last year’s injury humbled him, Clement decided to forego any individual goals in 2016.
“Just go out and play,” Clement said. “I think that’s the best thing to do for mental wise and physical wise. Just not put any stress on myself, go out, have fun. If records come then so be it, but we’re more so worried about the wins and come out the first game 1-0.”
Both LGs Could Play
Offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph said he expects both redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi and redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen to get reps with the first-team offensive line during Saturday’s opener. The two were separated with an “OR” on the initial depth chart.
“Both Micah and Dietz are doing good things,” Rudolph said. “I like the competition, I think it’ll be ongoing and both guys have approached it the right way.”
Kapoi started 10 games last season at both guard spots as a redshirt freshman while Dietzen is coming off his redshirt season. During the spring, Rudolph gave Dietzen most of the team reps with the starting unit, while Kapoi worked to help give the second-team unit some experience.
“They’re making each other better,” Rudolph said.
Addressing the Aranda Topic … Again
Game planning for a nonconference season opener always brings some challenges because of the lack of current tape on the opponent. Rudolph said this year’s LSU prep was unique because of the familiarity with Dave Aranda.
Having coached one season with the current LSU defensive coordinator, Rudolph said the Badgers tapped into a number of different outlets to do prep work, including film from the two team’s meeting two years ago and even last year’s practice tape.
Clement said the hardest part about going against Aranda’s defense in practice was he never knew what kind of blitz package, pressure or look was coming at him next.
“I’ve played against him for three years in practice,” he said. “I’m pretty sure he’s working up some great scheme he always pulls together.”
Clement isn’t alone in that approach. All 11 projected starters went against Aranda’s defense in some or fashion last year in practice, including five that went against him for all three of his seasons.
“I think there’ll be some confidence,” Rudolph said. “They see everything, like this year in camp and last year in camp when Dave was here. You see multiple fronts, multiple pressures. The volume of that you get lost in. That’s where this group has grown. Their understanding is better.”