Rotoworld.com NFL Draft writer Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) on Twitter joined us this week to talk about Wisconsin and how the Gamecocks match up with the Badgers. Norris and I discussed Wisconsins two-headed monster at running back, the play Norris expects the Badgers to use to hold Jadeveon Clowney at bay and Badgers All-America linebacker Chris Borland, among other things.
The State: Wisconsin is a group that most South Carolina arent familiar with. Who from Wisconsins roster will stand out?
Josh Norris: I know hes not entering the draft, but I would be upset if I didnt start with Melvin Gordon III, their redshirt sophomore running back. To me, hes a Jamaal Charles clone. Looks like him, runs like him. Hes explosive through the first and second level. Once he gets past the linebackers, hes gone. The issue with him is, he doesnt have a lot of pass protection opportunities or receiving opportunities so its probably a good thing in that regard that hes returning. James White, their other running back, is leaving, so maybe Gordon will inherit those responsibilities because those are obviously two critical factors in evaluating running backs. If they are going to get that first round grade, they have to play on all three downs. Hes a lean runner, with a lean frame, but hes got some power. He bounces off contact, picks up yard. Hes an awesome player, and he might be the best draft eligible running back.
The State: If Gordon sticks with his plan to return next year, hell be in that group of Class of 2015 running backs along with Mike Davis, who will have to decide at this time next year if they are going pro or not.
Josh Norris: I am never going to say a guy should declare or he shouldnt declare because its their decision, but it might have been wise to get ahead of that running back class. You have (Georgias Todd) Gurley, (Alabamas T.J.) Yeldon, (Miamis) Duke Johnson, Mike Davis. You have all those guys. Thats going to be tough. Then you move over to (senior) James White for Wisconsin. I guess hes undersized (5-10, 195) although its kind of tough to say at the running back position now. Hes kind of short, hes not very stocky, but he kind of gets the job done. Id think he fits in that fourth round, fifth round, sixth round range. Hes going to get drafted. There is nothing too explosive about him. Hes not flashy. Just gets the job done. Hes a dependable runner.
Quickly, well just go over to the wide receiver spot and Jared Abbrederis. Hes a very good athlete. I think he can stay on the outside in the NFL. Abbrederis took (Ohio States Bradley Roby) to school. He creates separation with his feet. He knows when to cut back routes, when his oppositions hips are turned, and he wins at the catch point as well. I really, really like Abbrederis. I think hes in that early third day (of the draft) territory.
I also wanted to say before we move to the defensive side of the ball, I expect Wisconsin to run a lot of jet sweeps. They do a lot of this already, but that will neutralize Jadeveon Clowney on the outside. They line up Gordon as a wide receiver, motion him inside, snap the ball as hes moving so they can either hand it off James White up the middle or Gordon coming around. If Gordon is running toward Clowney, thats going to freeze Clowney. Is he going to be able to crash down like he can and attack those inside runs and cause them to be no gains, 1-yard gains, things like that. He cant do that if Gordon is going to be coming around the edge as well. The State: You mention the defensive side of the ball, and Ill say this, I have never heard South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott rave about an opponent the way he does Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. Whats your opinion of Borland?
Josh Norris: Theres a lot to like. Hes the poster child of getting knocked for size and speed (5-11, 246), but teams really like him. Hes going to draw a lot of Zach Thomas comparisons. What I love about him is that he attacks blockers. He uses technique to generate as much separation as he can. He knows where the ball is going to go and that separation is he able to generate from college offensive linemen allows him to work.
I will also say this real quickly. In two of the three Wisconsin losses this season, teams have outrushed them. I wouldnt be surprised at all if South Carolina outrushes Wisconsin. Mike Davis, sure he slowed down a little bit, but Mike Davis is really good. Im a huge Mike Davis fan. I would not be surprised at all if South Carolina does end up outrushing Wisconsin.