What should make Wisconsin fans even more excited is that he's even better than he was a year ago.
A four-star recruit from Racine Park High School, Clay has added 10 pounds of muscles to his already powerful frame and has been running over every Badger defender in his path during spring practice. When he's not running over them, however, he's making them look foolish, shifting course consistently with his quick footwork that leaves defensive backs scratch their heads.
With three veteran running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, Clay knows how important this spring is to proving that he belongs in the Wisconsin backfield when the Badgers start its season at the end of August.
BN: You have obviously gained some weight and muscle from the time you came here but where else have you changed when you look in the mirror?
John Clay: I'd say just everything really. The sense of being in college, becoming a man and being on my own, going to my classes … everything has changed for me.
BN: How did the adjustment period go for you coming from high school into college? Was it easier than you thought, more of a challenge because you had those issues with the clearinghouse?
John Clay: I'd say it would be an ‘in between.' I knew what the demands were for college so I was prepping myself as I was getting ready to come in. It was rough but I handled it well with all the academic help Wisconsin gave me.
BN: How difficult was that fall 2007 camp for you, just trying to get into camp first off and then getting sidetracked with an injury and missing more time?
John Clay: It was a little frustrating because I was making progress and took a little blow and had to sit out for like a week or two. Just a stop and go all over again was kind of rough.
BN: How has this spring camp gone for you thus far? Have you been pleased with how things are going?
John Clay: Ah yeah. I am very happy with what is going on since I have the time now to study the plays. Everything is going good. I am understanding the offensive schemes, picking up the blitzed and everything. Everything is good.
BN: How pleased have you been with your repetitions and taking those reps and basically ran with them?
John Clay: Good because I know the other backs like Lance, P.J. and Zach have already had their chances and already know what to do. It's me needing to work on my skills and needing to prepare myself.
BN: What are your skills that you have taken a lot of pride in and think about being a signature skill of John Clay?
John Clay: I guess you can say I have the speed and power. It's the best of both worlds you can say. I can run or just use my power to run over somebody.
BN: One thing I have noticed about you when you practice is that you have the ability to cut back and make a lot of people look very foolish. Is that something that came naturally to you or something that you have developed over time?
John Clay: I guess you can say that it happened over time and started when I was younger. I worked on my quick fit because I knew then I was going to be big and have more than just the north and south running skills. I need to be able use my agility to break away from people.
BN: Watching Zach (Brown) last year as a natural freshman come in and perform well, did that bother you a little bit that someone in your class at your position was competing and you weren't?
John Clay: Nah. Not really. He was prepared and here before me. He knew what he had to do and I came late. He did what he had to do and stepped up as a true freshman and I applaud him for that. I was happy for him and was watching him to understand what was going on.
BN: How has the added weight helped you? Can you feel a difference to your game when you run with the extra 10 pounds?
John Clay: I feel it a little bit but it helps me take on more of the hits and absorb more of the hits than I would have if I was at a lower weight. It helped me a lot though. I can take the pounding now much easier and I still have my agility and speed to get away if I need to.
BN: How important are these spring practices for you? You talk about getting the reps and getting a feel for the game, just in the grand scheme of things, how are you approaching this practice?
John Clay: This is very serious for me. This is my chance to show the coaches what I can do and finally show that I am ready to step up and play on the field and show them that I can do what I need to do.
BN: With all the depth at running back, you guys have four quality running backs that could start anywhere in conference, is that another thing that is motivating you to perform well to see your time increased?
John Clay: Right now, I am just focused on me getting better at my craft and what I need to do. It's good that we have all these different types of runners so that if anyone needs a break, we won't miss a step.
BN: Have you set any long term or short term goals for yourself?
John Clay: Right now, my main goal is just to get my degree from here. My mom told me that getting my degree from here, I could go anywhere. That's what I want to do. If I am blessed and football takes me to the next level, then I'll do that.
BN: How good can this offense be? You look at the solid offensive line ahead of you and a veteran quarterback running the offense and things look promising.
John Clay: The sky is the limit for us. We got so many good athletes and options. You've got Travis (Beckum) and the wide receivers coming back. Put it on top with the offensive line coming back and the duel of our running game. The sky is the limit for us.
BN: Have you thought how exciting that first game is going to be running out of the tunnel as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers?
John Clay: Yeah, I've been thinking about it a lot. I've been getting very excited and getting ready to compete with the best in the nation.