Number of Scholarship Players lost: 1 (John Clay)
Recruiting Story: There was no bigger in-state target this past recruiting cycle than Melvin Gordon, which was why fans were so frustrated when the Badgers appeared to have made a critical error in his recruitment.
Although the Badgers were the first school to offer the speedster from Kenosha Bradford, Wisconsin offered him as an athlete with eyes of possibly moving him to defensive back. With Gordon wanting to be a college running back, Gordon became impressed with Iowa and its running back coach, Lester Erb.
With Iowa out in front, the Badgers changed their recruitment on Gordon, changing course and targeting Gordon as a running back. Gordon got the full-on press from Bielema, offensive line coach Bob Bostad and running back coach John Settle among others.
Wanting to get the decision done, Gordon decided that Iowa, the place that believed in him as a running back from the start, was the place he was going to go.
"I like everything about Iowa," he said at the time. "There's nothing wrong with that program. Maybe the worst thing is that there's not that much to do there, but that's good because it'll help keep me focused."
Those thoughts certainly changed over the next two months. While still committed to Iowa, Gordon made several unofficial visits to Madison, including being at the Ohio State game, an experience that really opened his eyes to Wisconsin's game-day atmosphere. Gordon also acknowledged that while most schools backed off after he committed to Iowa, the Badgers still came to watch his high school games, even head coach Bret Bielema would make the journey to Kenosha to watch him play.
While he still remained committed to Iowa, the caveat for Gordon was that he would stay committed to Iowa if he enjoyed the atmosphere.
Thinking about possibly going to UW on his visit, Gordon took his official to Iowa City and watched the Hawkeyes fall to Ohio State, 20-17. Gordon then made his decision to re-open his recruitment, emphasizing that his choice to become unaligned with any program was purely a personal one, and that he liked the atmosphere better at Wisconsin.
Furthermore, Gordon told Badger Nation that not only would he be playing closer to home so his family and friends can come up and support him, he was going to be a part of a backfield that had three running backs each gain over 995 yards.
After taking an official visit the first week of December, Gordon, a three-star running back ranked No.39 in the country by Scout.com, picked Wisconsin after de-committing from Iowa and other offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Washington State.
Gordon finished his senior season with 158 carries for 2,009 yards, an average of 12.7 yards per carry. He was named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Offensive Player of the Year after leading the state with 38 rushing touchdowns.
Scout's Scouting Report: Take one look at the numbers and you realize how special this kid can be. Yes, some numbers are inflated by bad competition, but Gordon played his senior season consistently at a high level. Gordon is fast and elusive, able to cut to make a defender miss and quickly accelerate up to full speed. His vision and timing are impeccable for a high school player, allowing the gap to develop and accelerate through it.
He's also a threat to catch a pass, as his speed and hand-eye coordinator make him a legitimate receiving threat. If he gets the weight room and adds some muscle to his frame, he could be an all-conference player for multiple years.
Who did the Badgers miss out on: With Wisconsin having a rich running back tradition, it's no surprise the Badgers dabbled in multiple high-ranked athletes, as UW offered at least 10 running backs in this class. The most notable were Justice Hayes from Grand Blanc (Mich.) and Savon Huggins from Jersey City (NJ).
Hayes, a four-star running back, said Wisconsin was a sleeper in his recruitment, but eventually backed off before committing to Michigan after de-committing from Notre Dame. Huggins, a five-star back and No.4 in the country at his position, was planning on taking an official visit to Wisconsin after taking an unofficial visit in the fall. After Gordon committed, the Badgers regrettably had to pull their offer.
How the position could change: Trayion Durham can qualify academically. Durham, rated the No.3 fullback in the country, committed to Wisconsin after taking an official for the Ohio State game. Since then, grades have apparently become a process and he had to re-open his recruitment, looking at Kentucky and Louisville. Durham has told our site that he still wants to play for Wisconsin if he gets his grades up, but a source said that if that were to happen, there's no guarantee UW would re-accept his verbal. Don't expect Durham to play for UW next season, which is too bad considering he was a speedy, power back that probably would have succeed in UW's system.
Melvin Gordon Junior Highlights
For more information on the 2011 Wisconsin verbal commits, sign up for a three-month or year subscription with Badgernation.com in time to get the 2011 Wisconsin Recruiting Yearbook that includes breakdowns of the entire class