Melvin Gordon could be Wisconsin’s No. 1 tailback in 2014.
Or, the redshirt sophomore from Kenosha Bradford High School could be in the National Football League.
A second-team all-Big Ten pick who has rushed for 1,466 yards (8.1-yard average) and 12 touchdowns this season, Gordon is seeking input from the NFL draft advisory board.
“There’s some things I know I need to work on,” Gordon said after practice Tuesday, referring to his work as a receiver and a blocker. “Things I know I am good at but really didn’t get an opportunity to show.”
UW coach Gary Andersen has told Gordon, who acknowledged the idea of making a run at the Heisman Trophy is appealing, it would be in his best interest to return.
“He is a very young player,” Andersen said. “At the end of the day he is still a sophomore. He could finish his school if he moves quickly through the process. He could walk out of here very, very close to having his degree done or done. That is a huge positive for him.
“And he is going to come back to a heck of an offensive line and a team that is going to be very, very good. He'll make the right decision in the end.”
According to Gordon, his father has advised him to return to UW. His mother offered the same advice initially but now wants him to explore leaving early.
“People are getting in her ear,” Gordon said, “agents. But at the end of the day she said: ‘It is whatever you want.’”
Gordon couldn’t say whether he will leave UW early if he receives a specific grade from the advisory board.
“I don’t know,” he said, acknowledging that a third-round grade or lower would lead him to return to UW. “Emotions might run high when I see it.”
Draft-eligible underclassmen must declare for the ‘14 draft no later than Jan. 15. That is two weeks after UW (9-3) is scheduled to face South Carolina (10-2) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Gordon said he plans to make his decision after the bowl game.
He grinned when asked about the prospect of making a run at the Heisman.
“If I stay I'll be a contender,” he said.
Gordon anticipates NFL scouts will love his ability as a runner, particularly his explosiveness. But he also understands they'll have reservations about his blocking and his ability to catch the ball.
“I want to get some type of feedback to at least let me know what I need to work on or what they need to see,” he said.
UW has used fellow tailback James White in the backfield to block on third downs and White has 37 receptions for 292 yards. Gordon has one reception for 5 yards.
Gordon has carried the ball 181 times this season, an average of 15.1 per game. Including the 20 carries he got as a freshman before a groin injury ended his season, Gordon has only 263 carries in 29 games.
In short, Gordon isn’t concerned another season at UW will leave his body with too many carries for the NFL.
Running backs coach Thomas Hammock has given Gordon frank advice.
“I tried to give him an unbiased opinion,” Hammock said. “I told him: ‘Whatever you do has no bearing on me. One way or the other it’s not going to hurt my feelings. But make the best decision for you and you alone because you have to live with it.’”
Andersen acknowledged he encouraged Gordon to seek feedback from the advisory board and added no other UW player plans to go through the process. Nevertheless, Andersen reiterated he believes Gordon’s best choice would be to return to UW.
“I told him I’m going to tell you what I think but I’m going to support you, just like my own kid,” Andersen said. “I don’t say the things I said to Melvin because I think that is what is best for myself or for what is best for Wisconsin.
“At the end of the day I do it because I think that is what’s best for Melvin. That is the coach I am. That is who I pride myself on being. I don’t always tell them what they want to hear but I am going to tell them what I feel and what I think.
“In this case I think it is best for Melvin to come back. Is that best for me as a coach? You bet it is. Is that best for Wisconsin? Yeah, you bet it is. And I believe that is best for Melvin.”