October 14, 2009

Clay's studying and questions lead to success

MADISON - During his weekly press conference, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema believed John Clay took a major step forward in his preparation and performance against Ohio State.

For opponents, that is a scary thought considering even after his 59-yard day at OSU, Clay is still the Big Ten's leading rusher. Following Tuesday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com had a chance to talk exclusively with the sophomore running back.

The following is a question and answer with Clay:

How do you approach preparation for a game?

Clay: Just me, I tried to read and ask as many questions as possible during the week. I watch as much film, ask as many questions to my coaches and just read all of the film sheets they give us and just study.

Is that the way you've always been? Or has anything changed over the years you've been in the program?

Clay: More than anything, it's just asking more questions. I'm just trying to soak as much of the knowledge that I can from my coaches. Ask anything that I need, even if it's any little thing to help me be a better running back or a better player just to help this system. That's what I want to do.

Is that something that takes some time? Maybe you come in as a young player in the program and are a little shy or intimidated by the coaches so you don't ask a lot of questions.

Clay: Yeah, you can say that. You just don't want to be the one, I guess, just standing out. And just not doing what you want to do.

Coach Bielema talked about in his press conference…were you a little nicked up last week, early on?

Clay: Yeah I was.

He thought, preparation wise, was probably the biggest step you made forward. Do you kind of feel that too?

Clay: Yeah, I'm just trying to be out here for my teammates. Everybody is hurting, everybody is banged up. I'm just trying to be out there just as much as they are. It's not me trying to get out of anything with my teammates. If they're willing to fight, I'm willing to fight with them through pain and everything. I know we've got each others back and we're always going to look after each other so that's what I'm dealing with.

A couple of back-to-back games with 32 carries kind of bangs you up a little bit.

Clay: Yeah, just a little bit, yeah. (Laughing)

Talk about Iowa, you were pretty close to committing there weren't you?

Clay: Yeah, at the last minute. Yeah, I was close to committing there. That's just a great program. They have an excellent staff. Their coaches are helpful and everything. I just parted different ways with them and came here.

Is there any animosity?

Clay: Oh no, I have nothing against Iowa. They have a great school and they've got great fans. They have some players there that I talked to when I was there getting recruited. That's just like another family there, just as it is here.

Talk about the Ohio State game. Statistically you didn't have as many yards as you put up the last few games, but do you feel like you took a step forward against a tough defense like that?

Clay: Yeah. We just kept grinding and tried to do as much as possible. I tried to help out as much as I could. A lot of us running backs got into the passing game, so that's good for us just being an extra receiver that the quarterback needed to get the ball away.

You had a couple of receptions too. Do you like catching the ball?

Clay: Yeah, that's real good. It just shows people that I'm not just a runner and that I can catch. Now I can block so hopefully trying to get the triple threat going so people can see what I can do.

Montee Ball got in there a little bit too. Were you impressed by the way he ran?

Clay: Yeah, he did very good. For a freshman, he stepped up big. He didn't shy away from contact and he didn't buckle under the pressure with all the crowd and everything. He stepped up and has been doing what he's been doing in practice.

He said he was a little nervous in the Minnesota game, did you see that a little bit?

Clay: A little bit, but after a while, just talking to him and saying you just got to do what you can do and just be confident in yourself and your ability. The sky is the limit for him.

Sorry to keep jumping around, but you've gone against Iowa a couple of times. Last year they had Mitch King and Matt Kroul on the defensive line. Now, they're not there but their defensive line is doing well. What is it about their defensive line that's always tough?

Clay: They're not the biggest guys and they're not the tallest, but they've always got that motor. They're non-stop mentality and just want to keep fighting until that last whistle blows. That's just what drives them and keeps them going. That's just what we've got to do. We just have to make sure that we stay on our blocks and make sure that everybody is picked up so Scott Tolzien can have time to throw the ball to the receivers.

Do you enjoy going against these top notch defenses?

Clay: Yeah, it just shows how powerful our offense is and how explosive we are. Once we get clicking and once we get going, it's hard to stop us.

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