When talk surfaces of a record-breaking South New Jersey high school running back committing to Wisconsin, comparisons naturally drift to former Badgers standout Ron Dayne.
Dayne, a punishing, physical runner from Overbrook (N.J.) High School, went on to break the all-time NCAA rushing record and win a Heisman Trophy in 1999.
Nobody is saying Glassboro High senior Corey Clement -- who committed to Wisconsin last week -- will do the same thing. But those close to the Glassboro football program aren't shying from the comparisons, either.
"I remember Ron playing in high school," Glassboro head coach Mark Maccarone said. "Corey's probably not as big as Ron Dayne was in high school. Ron Dayne was a great running back. Ron Dayne did great things at Wisconsin and in the pros, but he didn't put up the numbers that Corey has. Corey has broken records that Ron Dayne wasn't close to."
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Clement has set South Jersey rushing records for career yards (5,874), yards in a season (2,510) and yards in a game (478). And with Glassboro set to begin the state playoffs, he's not done polishing off the record books just yet.
This season, Clement has carried 139 times for 1,952 yards -- good for an astounding 14.0 yards per carry -- and has 27 touchdowns. He also has caught two passes for 50 yards with a touchdown, although Glassboro rarely throws the ball.
Maccarone said his team runs a similar offense to Wisconsin, featuring an I-back formation with Clement serving as a prototypical downhill runner.
During a 51-6 victory last week against Gloucester Catholic, Clement carried the ball just nine times but gained 283 yards and scored four touchdowns.
"He had 150 yards in the first quarter," Glassboro athletic director Jeff Cusack said. "We end up not giving him the ball as much as we should because we don't want to be running the score up on people. He takes it in stride. He doesn't pout. It's whatever is best for the team. He's fine with that."
In his first season as Glassboro's featured running back last year, Clement rushed 249 times for 2,510 yards and 34 touchdowns, drawing the attention of college programs from across the country. During his first two seasons in the program, he split carries with running back Paul James, who now plays at Rutgers.
Clement picked Wisconsin's scholarship offer over offers from more than a dozen schools, including Penn State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Iowa, Florida State and Boston College. He initially made an oral commitment to the University of Pittsburgh but changed his mind after visiting Wisconsin. He made his trip to Madison the weekend of Oct. 20, when Wisconsin defeated rival Minnesota, 38-13.
What makes Clement special on the football field, Maccarone said, is his ability to make would-be tacklers miss with a subtle juke or run them over by lowering his shoulder. But it's Clement's humility that stands out most.
"Someone who has the accomplishments in New Jersey like he has right now and is garnering the attention that he has as an 18-year-old, it could swell anybody's head, could give anybody an ego," Maccarone said. "He is not like that at all. He's extremely humble and appreciative of the opportunities he's been given to do what he does. He takes full advantage of them and does them extremely well."
Clement is the only running back committed in Wisconsin's Class of 2013. He'll join James White, Jeff Lewis, Melvin Gordon and Vontee Jackson in the Badgers' backfield. Senior running back Montee Ball, the team's workhorse and a Heisman Trophy finalist a year ago, will graduate after this season, opening up more carries for the other tailbacks.
"Physically, Corey can come in and play," Cusack said. "He's not going to be one of those kids you're going to have to wait so he throws on 20 pounds. He can take the beating that he would take in a Big Ten schedule. He's got it now. He's all solid muscle."
Badgers coach Bret Bielema can't comment on specific recruits until they sign their National Letter of Intent -- the initial signing date for high school football seniors isn't until Feb. 6, 2013 -- but he has discussed the importance of recruiting on the East Coast.
Bielema said when he took the head coaching job at Wisconsin in 2006 that he examined the previous 10 years of recruiting at the program and realized the Badgers didn't have many players from out East. He also didn't have a strong East Coast recruiter early in his tenure.
It wasn't until running backs coach Thomas Hammock -- a Jersey City, N.J. native -- joined the program in 2011 that Bielema felt Wisconsin could compete for players. Hammock helped to bring in quarterback and Audubon, N.J., native Joe Brennan, who has since transferred, and fullback Sherard Cadogan, a Washington Township, N.J., native.
"The East Coast, it's a little different," Bielema said. "If you aren't from there, they tend to maybe not open their arms as much as you would expect. So it was difficult for my first staff to really break in there. And when I hired Thomas Hammock and started putting him out there, he slowly began to make some headway. . . . If we can continue to make that area grow, it's going to be a positive for us, I think."
If Clement is even half as productive as Dayne was at Wisconsin, the Badgers surely will be delighted. Cusack, for one, won't be surprised if Clement achieves more.
"Corey is very, very special," Cusack said. "I coached against Ron Dayne. He was a bull and he was big as a house, but Corey is a different type of kid."
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