It was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon against LSU Saturday night.
In the first half, Gordon gashed through the stout LSU defense for 76 yards on 12 carries.
The second half didn’t go so well for Gordon and the Badger’s offense.
Gordon carried the ball just four times in the second half for 64 yards, which was a little inflated due to a 63-yard carry on the opening carry of the second half, a half in which Wisconsin blew a 17-7 lead to fall 28-24.
As it turns out, Gordon suffered a slight hip injury on the 63-yard run, which resulted in Wisconsin using sophomore back Corey Clement as the featured back following halftime.
Despite the injury and limited second-half production, Gordon did a lot of things well in the season-opener.
Here’s a breakdown of Gordon’s 140-yard performance.
As he exhibited last season, Gordon uses his quickness—both from a speed and lateral standpoint—to pick apart the LSU run defense. He uses his speed and change-of-direction ability to create big plays outside of the tackles.
- Here, Wisconsin runs a designed run to the right. After flashing his agility with a jump cut, Gordon quickly halts and spots a hole on the outside of the closed side of the formation. Gordon uses his quickness to burst outside, creating a seven-yard gain out of a seemingly broken play.
- Gordon shows his lateral quickness, avoids an arm tackler and takes off around the edge for a solid gain.
Last year, Wisconsin went to James White to pound the ball between the tackles and in passing situations. This obviously has changed with White’s departure, making Gordon the team’s featured back. Against the Tigers, Gordon was afforded the opportunity to show off his patience and vision, showing he can be an efficient interior runner. In addition, Gordon’s quickness allowed him to burst through running lanes as soon as they formed, which is put on display in the following GIFs.
- Gordon bursts through the B-gap before using his vision to identify a hole in the A-gap, fighting through for a few addition yards.
- Gordon uses his change-of-direction speed to burst through a running lane, creating a big play in the process before pulling up due to a slight hip injury.
- Here, in the power formation, Gordon quickly bursts through an opening, using a quick move to evade a defender at the next level, and takes off for a leaping touchdown.
Similarly to last season, Gordon didn’t make an impact in the passing game to open the 2014 season. He was unable to register a single reception, although he was targeted just one time on a wheel route.
- On this wheel route, Gordon makes his way around the edge and eventually stops running. Because of him halting, he isn’t able to haul in the reception from McElvoy, although he would’ve been in the area if he continued running his route.
Being able to contribute in the passing game is an absolute must for any running back at the next level. This was his main issue heading into the season and it will need to be addressed moving forward in order for him to improve his draft stock.
In contrast to last season, Gordon did show more of an effort to contribute in pass protection. For most of the game, Gordon would throw chip blocks on defenders on the verge of breaking through offensive linemen, impeding their pass rush just long enough for quarterback Tanner McElvoy to get the ball out. However, Gordon did have one prime example of his power and ability to pick off blitzers.
- Here, Gordon delivers a devastating blow to a blitzing defensive back.
Gordon definitely did some things to help himself in his first big test of the 2014 season. He continues to exhibit the quickness, but seemingly has become more of a threat to run in the interior. He still looks to be a second-round pick (partially due to the devaluation of the running back position in the NFL) and a top three running back prospect in the 2015 class. If he can begin to contribute in the passing game, Gordon might be able to ascend his value into the late-first round, although Georgia’s Todd Gurley still looks to be the top prospect at the position.
All clips provided via Draftbreakdown.com.