Wisconsin Football: Over/Under Stat Projections for Melvin Gordon in 2014
In what seems like a regular thing at this point, the Wisconsin football team has a Heisman Trophy candidate in its backfield. This year, as well as last year, it's Melvin Gordon. And without James White coming in and "stealing" carries from the talented junior from Kenosha, Wisconsin, this could very well be the season that Gordon at least makes it to New York.
Though Gordon struggles in pass protection at times while also providing little help as a receiving threat, this is something he has worked on throughout the offseason, with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reporting, "Gordon remained [after a spring workout], running routes and catching passes from walk-on quarterback Thad Armstrong."
With the hope that Gordon improves in the passing game, let's take a look at the over/under for just how good Gordon can be this season now that he is the clear No. 1 back for the Badgers with an outstanding line in front of him.
As a baseline, take a look at the table below to see his stats from his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Also keep in mind that Gordon played in three games in 2011—though it didn't count against his eligibility—amassing 98 yards on 20 carries to go with a touchdown.
Rushing Attempts: 250
During his freshman season, Gordon was called upon just 62 times, with Montee Ball racking up 356 carries. While this was mostly then-coach Bret Bielema's fault—in addition to the fact that Gordon was also buried on the depth chart behind White—Gordon certainly deserved to have his number called more.
His sophomore year, in a true split with White, Gordon amassed 206 carries, which is still a relatively modest total for someone with as lofty aspirations as Gordon has. With that being said, in relatively limited work, Gordon more than made the most of it, totaling more than 1,600 yards.
This season, I expect Gordon to hit right about 250 carries, which would be just about 20 carries per game. While Gordon will see a lot of stacked boxes due to some major question marks in the passing game, between him and running mate Corey Clement, they will likely each break the 200-carry mark.
Rushing Yards: 1,500
This was a pretty conservative estimate, even though 1,500 yards would have put him at No. 14 on last year's rushing-leader list—a list that saw Gordon clock in at No. 10. The fact that 1,500 yards is something of a baseline is truly remarkable, but it speaks to Gordon's immense talent.
Gordon will repeatedly see eight- and nine-man fronts with Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy under center and a rotating cast of non-Jared Abbrederis- or Jeff Duckworth-types out at receiver. Even with stacked fronts, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has shown quite a bit of creativity getting Gordon the ball through jet-sweeps.
With a phenomenal set of linemen in front of him, Gordon should amass plenty of yards.
Rushing Touchdowns: 10
With Clement working as a little more of a between-the-tackles runner, Gordon will likely see fewer goal-line carries than he may like, though that's partially in an effort to keep him fresh, as few people are as dangerous between the 20s as Gordon is.
Gordon had 12 rushing touchdowns last season, and that's probably about the number he could expect to get back to this year. With that being said, Gordon only found the end zone once after his three-score game at Illinois as the weather got colder and defenses keyed in even more on No. 25.
To date, Gordon has some pretty bleak receiving numbers. During his freshman season, Gordon caught two passes, one of which he broke for a 57-yard score. Outside of that, Gordon has two other receptions.
With that being said, Gordon has worked hard throughout the offseason to be a three-down back by working in pass protection and working on becoming a better receiver. With little help on the outside in the passing game, Gordon will be called upon to step up as a receiver.
Realistically, I think one catch per game is a reasonable target for Gordon to hit. There'll likely be a lot of screens and short passes called in the early going of the team's nonconference schedule after playing LSU in Week 1 (Aug. 30). It will be a good way for Gordon to get a feel for catching passes during live action.