Janesville46.2°

Bradford’s Gordon a big catch

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Jeff Potrykus
January 31, 2011
— Now that Melvin Gordon has navigated a grueling recruitment and decided to join Wisconsin’s 2011 freshman football class, the standout tailback from Kenosha Bradford can confess the most trying part of the process was backing out of his original commitment to Iowa.

Gordon gave the Hawkeyes a non-binding oral commitment in August before the start of his senior season. He changed his mind after rushing for more than 2,000 yards and leading Bradford to an 11-2 mark last season, and chose UW in December.


He maintained that commitment even after one last meeting with Iowa running backs coach Lester Erb.


“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Gordon said. “Me and coach Erb had a good relationship. Just to tell him that he won’t be coaching me for the next four or five years was kind of hard.


“I know he was upset about it, too, but I had to do what was right for me at the end.”


Gordon, the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association 2010 player of the year, is one of at least 19 players set to sign Wednesday with UW. Wide receiver Kenzel Doe, who attended a prep school in the fall, has signed a letter of intent.


The remaining 18 players have given oral commitments. It is possible UW will add a player or two this week because the Badgers remain in the running for quarterback Jacoby Brissett and outside linebacker Curt Maggitt, teammates at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Fla.


Gordon is one of the standouts in a group of eight state prospects. That group also includes Baldwin-Woodville linebacker Jake Keefer, who participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and Pewaukee linebacker Derek Watt, the younger brother of former UW defensive end J.J. Watt.


Gordon, 6-foot and 197 pounds, rushed 158 times for 2,009 yards (12.7 yards per carry) and 38 touchdowns as a senior. Bradford’s season ended with a 30-15 loss in the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals to eventual champion Waukesha West.


“He is the best athlete that we faced,” said Waukesha West coach Steve Rux, whose team limited Gordon to 145 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries. “Gordon brings a different level of speed than what you’d normally see in high school. … We knew at any point he could take over the game and score quickly.”


Rux compares Gordon athletically to former Oak Creek tailback Brian Calhoun and former Verona standout Derek Stanley.


Calhoun signed with Colorado but eventually transferred to UW and played one season (2005) before turning pro. Stanley played tailback at Verona High School and then played wide receiver at UW-Whitewater before being taken in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.


“The guy can run inside, cut it back and leave everybody behind,” Rux said of Gordon. “As you watch film on a guy like that, it seems like everybody is standing still and he is just flying.


“A lot of times when you’re watching film and you know a guys has some offers at the Division I level you wonder: Does this guy really fit at that level?


“And when I had a chance to see Gordon play there is no question in my mind he fits in the Big Ten.”


Kenosha Tremper coach Frank Matrise saw his team lose twice to Bradford last season. Gordon rushed 15 times for 156 yards (10.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns in a 70-21 regular-season victory. He added 153 yards and three touchdowns in 16 carries (9.6 yards per carry) in a 28-14 victory in the state playoffs.


Matrise sees a player who can help UW as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield.


“He’s got great patience, and the minute he finds that hole he’s got unbelievable speed,” Matrise said. “His stride is phenomenal. He just gets through there.


“He’s got very good hands. I think that his going to be an asset for him as far as catching passes out of the backfield.


“I think Wisconsin is the right place for him.”


Gordon is set to join a crowded backfield.


UW should return Montee Ball and James White, who combined to rush for 2,048 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. Zach Brown, who redshirted last season, returns for his senor season. Running backs coach John Settle is eager to add to the mix freshman Jeff Lewis, who worked with the scout team last season.


Gordon also understands the scrutiny likely will be greater because he is an in-state recruit.


“There is going to be pressure,” he said. “But, you know, I like to do good at everything. When I’m out there, I’m just going to put that pressure aside and play ball.


“A lot of players come in with goals. My goal is to get some playing time on Saturdays. I’ve got to come in and work hard and hopefully something good will come out of it.”


Gordon had been lobbying Bradford safety Trae Waynes, who committed to Michigan State, to rethink his decision and join him at UW.


“But he is pretty solid with MSU,” Gordon said. “He is at home with them.”


The Big Ten is set to begin divisional play in 2011. UW will be in the Leaders Division. Both Iowa and Michigan State will be in the Legends Division. UW isn’t scheduled to play Iowa until 2013, but the Badgers play at Michigan State again in 2011, in Week 3 of league play.


“We make jokes all the time,” Gordon said, referring to Waynes. “I tell him I’m going to lay him on his back when I see him. He says he is going to lay me on my back.


“We’re going to go at it. It’s going to be fun seeing each other from opposite sides of the field.”



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