Heisman Dark Horse Part 4: John Clay

In Part 4 of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at Wisconsin running back John Clay.  In case you missed it, we have highlighted three other dark horse candidates, Florida State QB Christian Ponder (see link), West Virginia RB Noel Devine (see link) and Miami QB Jacory Harris (see link).

Each of these candidates has two things in common–they have put up big numbers last season, they appear to be poised for an even bigger season in 2010, and finally, the major media outlets are not giving any of them the attention that the bigger names like Mark Ingram or Terrelle Pryor are receiving.

John Clay and his massive offensive line will look to improve on last season's impressive statistics (google images)

Wisconsin’s punishing running back John Clay certainly qualifies for this criteria.  Despite entering the 2010 season as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and rushing for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.  Two other factors point to even bigger numbers in 2010, with the emphasis on “BIG.”  Clay enters two-a-days a few pounds heavier, as he is reportedly tipping the scales at 255 lbs., versus the high 240’s that he played at last season. 

The other key factor that will only help Clay’s quest to become the third Heisman Trophy winner in Wisconsin history is the stacked offensive line.  Senior LT Gabe Carimi anchors an O-line that returns all five starters from a season ago that averages 6’5″ and 325 lbs.

In order to be in a position to get the invite to New York a couple of key factors must work in Clay’s favor.  College FootBlog uncovers these factors and breaks down the likelihood that Clay will be in the running for the coveted award at season’s end.

Clay Must Get His Carries Against the Weak Teams:  The Badgers again have somewhat of a laughable non-conference schedule, with only Arizona State as a decent opponent.  The other games are against UNLV, San Jose State and Austin Peay.  In last year’s soft schedule, Clay only carried the ball 15 times against Northern Illinois and just 12 carries against lowly Wofford.  In the Wofford game, Clay rushed for 70 yards on those limited carries, but could have gone for much, much more, and he left the game without scoring a touchdown when the Badgers took full control over the game.

Will It Happen?  Yes, but head coach Bret Bielema will have the difficult task of balancing stats vs. risk of injury this season, but even though Clay is not as much on the national scene as he should be, he is recognized in the Big Ten as a legitimate threat for the Heisman.  Bielema knows that more carries (particularly against weaker opponents) will get Clay closer to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, which would force the Heisman voters’ hands when they turn in their ballots.  Look for Clay to get a minimum of 20 touches against each opponent this season, regardless of the score.

Clay Must Show Up in Conference Showdowns:  Clay’s numbers would have been even more impressive, and perhaps the national media would be much more on board with his Heisman run this fall, if he had produced against conference foes Ohio State and Iowa.  In 2009, the bruising running back only managed 134 yards and zero TDs combined against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, while averaging under 3.3 yards per carry.  Once again in 2010, Clay will go against OSU and Iowa in back-to-back weeks, and each game has a great shot at being nationally televised.  If he can eclipse the century mark in yards in each of those teams, who will each have dominant defenses again this fall, he will be on everyone’s radar.  If he is neutralized in either (or both games like last year), he can probably kiss the Heisman goodbye.

Will It Happen?  The numbers should improve, and he will likely go for 100+ yards in at least one of those games.  We also believe that behind that massive offensive line, he will get into the end zone at least once in each game.  If he does rush for 100+ yards in one game and if he can get to 75-80 yards in the other game plus a couple of TDs, he will be right in the thick of the Heisman talk.  Getting 100+ yards against two of the best run defenses in the country two weeks in a row is a tall order for any running back and O-line combination, and the odds will be against Clay again this season.

If Clay can get more carries, especially against the weak opponents on his schedule, and if he can go for 100 yards against Iowa and/or Ohio State, don’t be surprised if the Big Ten finally endorses him–he wasn’t even voted as the preseason offensive player of the year, despite winning the award last season–and the voters will take notice as well.

Look for College FootBlog’s fifth and final Heisman Dark Horse Candidate later this week.

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1 Response to “Heisman Dark Horse Part 4: John Clay”



  1. 1 Heisman Dark Horse Part 5 « College FootBlog Trackback on August 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

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