Work Horse

With P.J. Hill going pro, Wisconsin sophomore John Clay, after rushing for 884 yards and nine touchdowns last season, is set to be the featured back in the Badger backfield, something Clay is ready to take on with a head full of steam.

Badger Nation: This seems like a pretty big opportunity in front of you being the starter. How excited are you at this point?

John Clay: I am real excited. I am ready to start fighting for the starting job. Me and Zach Brown and Erik Smith are going to have some good competition and we know what we have to do in order to become the starting tailback. Nothing is guaranteed. We have to fight for what we want and that's what I am doing. We're fighting as a family.

Badger Nation: What do you have to do?

JC: I just have to be consistent, know my keys and pick out all the screens and study the playbook.

Badger Nation: Do you feel like you can be a workhorse-type player?

JC: Yeah. I just need to keep competing everyday and giving 100 percent. That's all I can do. I did a lot of film study and looking at my own cut outs. Coach gave me clips of myself so I can study myself and see what I needed to work on. We sat down and talked about everything I needed to improve upon and what I needed to keep doing.

Badger Nation: What were some of the biggest things you saw in that film?

JC: Just being patient when I run the ball. Not rushing to get to the hole that fast and just waiting for my blockers to develop the play. I just need to read my keys. I need to keep staying in the books, watching film and asking questions. There is always room to improve to make me a better back.

Badger Nation: What are your personal goals as you enter the new season?

JC: I just want to come in with my mind set on staying focused and keeping my eye on the prize. I just want to help this team out and do what I can to become that number one team. We've got to stay focused and look at the mistakes at we did. That's what was making or breaking us last year.

Badger Nation: Were you surprised that P.J. Hill left early? Did that come as a shock to you?

JC: Yeah it did come as a shock. But he has to do what he has to do for his best decision. When I heard that he was leaving, I gave him my best wishes and thanked him for teaching me how to play the running back position at Wisconsin.

Badger Nation: P.J. said last year that he took you aside and tried to mold you into being the next great running back at Wisconsin. What did he teach you about playing this position?

JC: Just the little things like my footwork. Footwork, he said, was a big thing and to make sure that I got it down. He told me to make sure that I read my blocks and be patient and pick up the blitzes. I used to sit in the meeting room with him and he used to break down film with me and tell me who was who. He was a mentor.

Badger Nation: Do you feel that you have to be a leader on this team being that you are going to be the starting running back or do you feel that there are enough upper classmen to take that role?

JC: I wouldn't say that. I am not the rah-rah kind of leader. I just lead by example. Hopefully, by people watching me, I do the best that I can and they pick up from that. There are a lot of people on this team that are good leaders and can motivate you by giving you speeches and advice and getting everybody pumped up before the game.

Badger Nation: Last year you talked about sleeping with the playbook. Do you feel that the playbook comes second-nature to you now or do you feel that it is still a work in progress?

JC: I could say a little bit of both. There are still some stuff that I still need to learn and there is always room to improve. The beginning of the spring, getting the playbook, I knew everything that I had to do. I knew what the play was and what plays I had to do. Being in rhythm with that and remembering last year really helped.

Badger Nation: Is it a relief this time around that when Coach Chryst calls a play that you don't have to think in your mind where you are going and you can focus on hitting the hole, finding the linebacker and making a move?

JC: It's a big relief and weight off my back. I got a chance to get in the playbook last year and got an opportunity to play at game speed. Coming into the spring, it's like picking up where I left off.

Badger Nation: Do you pay attention to outside expectations on your or this team or do you stay in house?

JC: I stay in house. Just talking with my teammates, we are talking about what we need to do to make ourselves better and the team better. We know that this is a family and families come first. We discuss as a team and we really don't care what people say in the outside world because they really don't know what is going on inside. We're focused on finishing games and giving it all during four quarters and sealing the deal.

Badger Nation: Do you feel that this offense has a good balance when things are going right?

JC: We do. We have good running backs and good wide receivers. When the running backs are doing good, that means that defenses are going to load the box up and gives our wide receivers an opportunity to make their move and stand out. They always come in in the clutch and make big plays for us. Just like for us, if the wide receivers are doing good, they don't load the box as much and that's when we make our opportunities and take advantage of it.

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