He is a physical runner that has a good stiff arm. Can be a powerful downhill runner that runs hard behind his pads. Lowers the shoulder and delivers the blow to the defender. Does a nice job keeping his feet moving after contact, picking up extra yards and always seems to fall forward. Patient and follows his blocks between the tackles. Shows decent speed and can challenge the corner at times. Shows good footwork for his size, with a decent jump cut to make defenders miss in the hole.
His power can be inconsistent. Doesn't always run with authority behind his pads or downhill. Lacks the speed to really be a homerun threat. Doesn't have great quickness and will have some difficulty changing direction, particularly when he gets to the second level. Tends to be too patient at times and doesn't appear to have great vision. Dances a bit too much in the backfield waiting for the hole to develop and needs to show more consistent burst to and through the hole. Can get tripped a bit too easily when defenders hit him below the waist, so he might need to beef up on the squats. Gets rare opportunities on passing downs, so he is inexperienced as a blocker and not used much as a receiver.
Clay has the power and physicality that is more of a throwback in the NFL. He is exactly the type of back that a run-first team would love to have to soften up the defense, and then to send in a speed back to complement him and hit the homerun. He reminds me of Beanie Wells, but not as powerful, quick, or athletic. He has potential, but is more the kind of guy that gets a lot of 3 and 4 yard carries, and then as the game wears on and the defense tires he can start breaking some 10-yard gains. But he's a workhorse type that I think will have a hard time being a feature back at the next level because of his learning curve in the passing game. And I don't think his playing style will make him a top short-yardage back. I think in terms of his potential, it's probably somewhere above that of T.J. Duckett, but below a guy like Michael Turner because of his lack of the speed to make a lot of runs of 20+ yards. A team that wants him to split carries with a speed back like a Leon Washington, and wants to be a run-first power offense will get the most use out of him.
WHAT I WANT TO SEE IN 2010:
The main thing with Clay is his ability to maintain his health. You would like to see more of him in the passing game, but I doubt that really happens. Wisconsin has two other backs in Montee Ball and Zach Brown that get a lot of the reps on passing downs and also spell him quite a bit, which is why his durability hasn't been an issue to date. Hopefully that keeps up so that he doesn't enter the pros with the same questions that plagued Beanie Wells in 2009. He's also has some bouts with fumbles in the past, so you want to see that problem corrected.
I fully expect Clay to come out. Running backs rarely stay all four years, especially when they've had as much wear on the tires as Clay will likely have by the end of the 2010 season. He split time with P.J. Hill in 2008, but was the workhorse last year with 287 carries. Don't expect him to get that many, but should definitely be on the plus side of 200. Clay's draft stock will likely be tied to his durability and his workout numbers. If he can post impressive 40 speed (sub 4.5), his stock could potentially be high enough where he could be a late first round pick like Wells was in 2009. Injuries and slow 40 time (4.6 or higher) could drop him into the third round. But more than likely, he's going to go in the second round to a team looking more for a complement like Toby Gerhart in 2010.
2008- 155 carries, 884 yards, 5.7 avg, 9 TDs; 1 rec., 2 yards
2009- 287 carries, 1517 yards, 5.3 avg, 18 TDs; 9 rec., 61 yards
The year's upcoming draft and the college game can be discussed here.
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