The departure of former running backs coach Thomas Hammock for the NFL left Wisconsin scrambling a bit back in February. The news broke on National Signing Day, largely overshadowing a solid UW class of 2014 and instead prompting questions surrounding the running game's future with Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement.
Five months later, things seem copacetic for the running backs under Thomas Brown, the former Georgia standout whom Gary Andersen hired to replace Hammock. Monday, at Big Ten media day in Chicago, Gordon confirmed there's been a sense of familiarity forged over spring practices and summer workouts.
"The transition has been good. That spring was definitely needed with [Brown]," Gordon said. "I think we work a lot better together [now] than we did. In the fall, we'll work really great. He's a players' coach, too. He understands, he just says to talk to him, his door's always open to us. Great coach, I love his drills.
"He's been in the [NFL], so he knows what needs to be done. So I definitely respect him, regardless of how old -- or young -- he is. You've got to a respect a man that's been in places that you haven't. He's a great coach, I'm excited to work with him throughout the year."
Brown's been a running backs coach for only two years: one at Marshall in 2013 and one at Chattanooga in 2012. But between the numbers he put up playing at Georgia -- he finished his career as the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 2,646 career yards and led the Bulldogs in rushing in 2004 and 2005 -- and his work at Marshall, Brown was widely praised a strong hire. Last year, Marshall finished with Conference USA's second-ranked rushing offense (205.9 yards per game), which ranked 24th nationally.
For Gordon, the transition was understandably tough at first. After passing up the likelihood of becoming a top NFL draft pick in May -- many scouts considered him the top running back prospect in the draft -- Gordon enters his junior season with considerable Heisman Trophy hype. He and Clement also form what could be the country's top running back duo, and expectations have never been higher for a Badgers backfield. Gordon himself led the country in yards per carry (among running backs with at least 200 carries) with 7.81 and finished with 123.77 yards per game, 11th among all backs.