Wisconsin running backs carry more than just the rock in Madison. They bear a rich legacy of success at the highest level in college football.
So will Corey Clement be the next in line to run wild at Camp Randall?
It's fair to try and make comparisons between Clement and his predecessor Melvin Gordon III since he worked with the new San Diego Chargers running back.
But it doesn't mean Clement likes it.
"It sucks," Clement said. "I’m tired of it. I can only be Corey Clement to the only extent possible. I mean it’s great to be compared to in a sense of ‘Wow, you and Melvin were on the same team.’... At the end of the day when I guess my season is over then you guys can do all the comparison you guys want because I can only be Corey Clement."
Because Gordon was performing at superhuman levels in 2014, Clement didn't get much of an opportunity in critical game action. Most of the snaps he saw was when the Badgers were up big and playing against worn out or backup defenders. Still, Clement was able to post solid numbers for any normal running back: 147 carries for 949 yards (6.5 YPC) and nine touchdowns.
The junior admits Gordon's ridiculous work ethic rubbed off on him, even when Gordon was working out and he was sleeping.
"He performed the way he did because of what he did when nobody thought he was doing it," Clement said. "Especially that 3 A.M. workout he was doing when everyone else was asleep, including me. This is why he did the numbers he did because the guy was just so committed."
Coming out of high school, Clement was a four-star recruit from New Jersey and was listed on most recruiting websites as the top Badgers commit of the 2013 class. Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave believes Clement's sacrifice of not playing early to learn under greats such as James White and Gordon has paid off big time for the new starter.
"Corey is a guy who, at a lot of programs, could have been a starting running back his freshman year but instead he comes here where he’s behind James White, who’s one of the most consistent football players I’ve ever been around for four years, and Melvin, and everyone knows what Melvin can do," Stave said. "He’s done a great job of just kind of being patient, making the most out of his carries, making the most out of his opportunities for the past two years.
"Right away in this offseason he understands that it’s his year, it’s his backfield now and he’s excited to step into that role of being the guy at the tailback position."
But with great power comes great responsibility. New Badgers coach Paul Chryst recruited Clement out of high school so he has familiarity with the new Badger starting back. Finally reuniting this summer in Madison, Chryst is encouraged by what he's seen so far of Clement's mindset heading into the biggest year of the running back's football career so far.
"I like where he's at right now," Chryst said. "I think he's excited for this next step in his progression as a player. And that's being you know, the starting tailback at Wisconsin which has been a position that's had a lot of great players ahead of him. And I think he's confident that he can add to that list. And I think he's excited for that opportunity quite honestly."
Chryst's offense certainly won't shy away from the Badgers strength of running the football. Clement's workload is about to be doubled from last year and the opportunity he's been waiting so patiently for is hanging out in the open ready to be snatched like a handoff. So the next potential star back in Madison is going to do the only thing he knows how to do: be him.
"My coaches are allowing for me to excel at perfect my craft," Clement said. "There’s a lot of things I can do on a daily basis, when I’m not working out I’m in the film room. I just try to be the best that I can be. I’m not going to be Melvin Gordon. I’m going to be Corey Clement."