Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Healthy Corey Clement ready to break out with Badgers' experienced RB corps

Big Ten preview: Healthy Corey Clement ready to break out with Badgers' experienced RB corps

Welcome back, Corey.

Now entering his senior season, Corey Clement still hasn’t gotten the breakthrough campaign he’s been hoping for. The Wisconsin running back who put up strong numbers on limited carries while backing up Badger stars Melvin Gordon and James White finally got his turn at the No. 1 job last season before injuries derailed his year.

After getting just eight carries in the season-opening loss to Alabama, Clement was sidelined for the team’s next seven games while recovering from surgery to repair a hernia. He appeared sparingly from there, playing against Rutgers and rushing for 115 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. He showed up again against Northwestern, getting just 10 touches but also hitting the end zone. Then he got his biggest workload of the campaign in the bowl win over USC, rushing 19 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.

There was also a legal situation, with Clement receiving a pair of disorderly conduct citations after he started a fight in an elevator.

It was hardly the way he envisioned his breakout year going after he combined for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on just 214 carries as a freshman and sophomore. So now he has a chance to finally have that breakout season as a senior.

“I would say that his head’s on right and he’s worried about the right things now,” fellow Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale said during Big Ten Media Days. “There was a lot of people in his ear, whether it was media, fans, family that were saying that last year was the year that he would have and then go to the NFL. And now after the year he had, he’s realizing how important it is right now.

“All he talks about, the only thing he says is, ‘making the play.’ So that just shows that he’s worried about the next play, and that’s what we need: the Corey Clement that we saw when he was a freshman and a sophomore, who was just out there just trying to make the biggest play. So that should be scary for defenses, but we’re excited to have him on our side.”

With the Badgers breaking in a new quarterback — and the passing game never exactly flying high even they aren’t — Clement and the rest of Wisconsin’s running back corps will be incredibly important. While backups Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal did well in Clement’s absence last season, a typically top-of-the-heap Badger rushing attack ranked just 10th in the Big Ten, averaging 150.3 yards per game.

The Wisconsin running back tradition now features a list of names a mile long, and Clement was expected to be the next addition to that list. To help navigate the Badgers through a brutal schedule — LSU in the opener, then Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern to open Big Ten play — Clement will need to get the rushing attack back to where it was under Gordon, White, Montee Ball, John Clay, P.J. Hill, Michael Bennett and Ron Dayne.

Thankfully he’ll have help in the form of Ogunbowale and Deal, who combined to rush for 1,322 yards last season. The two teamed with Clement make for a heck of a unit overall, and that could help mirror some of those Wisconsin rushing attacks of old, like when Gordon, White and Clement ran wild three years ago.

“The biggest teacher for a running back — or maybe any position — is experience,” Ogunbowale said. “That’s been huge for me, gaining that experience last season in games and kind of showing what I can do. Now that Corey comes back, that just adds another weapon for us. We’ve seen what Wisconsin offenses have done in the past when they’ve had a deep backfield, so we’re excited for that.

“There’s a lot of guys that can play, a lot of guys that probably will play. (Wisconsin running back coach John) Settle, he says that if you’re ready you will play regardless of what the situation is. It shaped up for great competition through the fall. I know I’m excited. I know those guys have a lot of confidence right now. We’re excited for the competition that we’ll have, but we’ve got a lot of weapons that we can throw at defenses out of the backfield.”

Clement will undoubtedly be the No. 1 focus, and it’ll be good to see him run again like everyone knows he can following a challenging junior season. But Wisconsin could thrive thanks to the whole group.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.