With Corey Clement slated to miss a month or month-and-a-half long chunk of the middle of this season, the question of a redshirt is a perfectly valid one.
Clement did great things in two seasons playing behind Melvin Gordon. Supposed to ascend to the next great Wisconsin running back this season, a nagging groin injury that turned out to be a sports hernia that will require surgery, the Badgers announced Thursday, limited him to just eight carries in the season-opener and knocked him out of the past two games. With just that handful of rushing attempts to his season — and with that number set to stay there until late October or early November at the earliest — a medical redshirt might be the way to go so Wisconsin gets two more seasons of Clement and Clement gets two more seasons of college football in 2016 and 2017.
According to Clement, it sounds like a possibility. But the running back alluded to the fact that the decision on whether to sit out the remainder of 2015 will depend on what the Badgers do in his absence. If he can come back and provide an extra spark for a team competing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, it might be worth it to forget the redshirt. If Clement's absence causes Wisconsin to tumble down the Big Ten West standings, maybe keeping Clement on the sidelines would be a smarter move.
That was the junior's thinking when he addressed reporters Thursday.
“The goal I came in with is to be a true freshman, true sophomore, true junior and never be redshirted or take a medical. Who knows? If I come back feeling 100 percent and I feel like going — who knows? Redshirt might be there, might not," he said. "But that’s something I have to talk to (head coach Paul) Chryst and (running backs coach John) Settle about. What’s the best decision, just to hold me out or just see what I can do? If my team keeps winning throughout the Big Ten and I’m able to come back, then I think it’s going to be a strong possibility that I do come back and keep playing with my teammates.”
But what if they don't keep winning?
“That’s another story," Clement said. "Got to be smart with that. If the chances are unlikely for us to get back to the Big Ten championship, then I might have to — who knows? — tone it down and just take a redshirt or try to get my year back.”
So, have we seen the last of Clement in 2015? Obviously, the majority of that depends on Clement's recovery. But looking at the Badgers' schedule, it's very possible they could be heading toward another spot in the conference title game. After this weekend's game against Hawaii, Big Ten play opens with games against Iowa and Nebraska before an easy stretch of conference games against Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland. It could set up all-important games against Northwestern and Minnesota to determine the West champ.
Clement could make a big difference in those games. And it's then that the redshirt question will be a very big one.