MADISON – Two years has past and the news is still stocking to Running Back Coach John Settle.
After turning a disappointing, yet somewhat productive, 2008 season, Settle was expecting something completing different when junior running back P.J. Hill came into his office following a blowout loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Settle expected Hill to ask him how he could get back on track after finishing with his lowest amount of carries (226), yards (1,161) and touchdowns (13) in his three-year career, not that he was planning on skipping his senior season to head to the NFL.
“With P.J., he didn’t discuss anything with anybody, find out his draft status and find out where he was projected,” Settle said. “It was a real shock.”
Hill hasn’t been heard from since. After racking up two DUIs after he declared for the draft, Hill got zero interest from any of the 32 NFL teams, was undrafted and has bounced around as a free agent for the last two seasons.
So with junior running back John Clay on the fence about his NFL situation, Settle is making sure the lines of communication are open and well received.
“John and I have a strong enough relationship where he could come and talk to me and I can talk to some of the people in the NFL to try and get an idea of what they think of him,” Settle said. “P.J. just ran into blind without much information. We’re going to give him enough information for him to make the best decision.”
Clay is certainly an interesting commodity as far as the NFL scouts are concerned. The 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is averaging 93.6 yards per game and has scored 13 TDs in 10 games. Clay has 3,337 career yards, just the eighth Badger running back to reach that mark, and his 40 TDs are fifth-best in school history.
Still, Clay is unsatisfied, especially since he’s been virtually ineffective since injuring his knee at Purdue, having just 16 carries for 49 yards over the last four games.
“As an individual, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do and produce as much as I thought I would,” Clay said. “Still, we have a special group and it’s great to be able to be a winner with this group.”
Clay, who said he’s right on the fence with next season, has said he’s sought after Settle, other coaches and his family for advice, but, like junior defensive end J.J. Watt, is putting the debate on his decision on hold until after the bowl game, especially considering the caliber of opponent.
When No.4 Wisconsin faces No.3 TCU in the Rose Bowl Jan.1, the Badgers will be facing the number three run defense in the country, a group that is allowing less than 90 yards per game. Don’t consider that an intimidation factor for Clay, who became the first running back in 29 games to go over the 100-yard mark against Ohio State when he had 104 yards vs. the Buckeyes on Oct. 16.
“I’ll figure all that out after the bowl game,” said Clay, who has run for at least 100 yards in 12 of his last 15 games. “I’ll sit down with my coaches, my parents and see what the next best thing for me to do is. The guys on this team have been great to me and I want to focus on helping them win this game.”
Happy Holidays! For more free content on Wisconsin, please go to foxsportswisconsin.com