Last time, we talked about two players who shared two similar traits and how they utilised them in different ways in order to succeed as running backs. Today we’re going to work in the opposite direction. Whereas the backs we talked about last time worked best when the play broke down, this back that we’re going to talk about today is someone who works best within a pro style system. He can process and read the blocks ahead of him quick enough to counter or punish any defender who might be out of position.
Weight: 219 lbs.
per Pro Football Reference.
2016 Season: 1st Team All Big-10
2016 Preseason: Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award Watch Lists
2015 Preseason: Maxwell Award Watch List, Doak Walker Award Watch List
2014: Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (Nov. 3)
2013: Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Sept. 9 and Nov. 18), honorable mention All-Freshman (College Football News)
What The Tape Says:
Clement’s style is reminiscent of Kareem Hunt in many ways due to the variety of jukes and feints that hold defenders in place long enough to exploit poor position. Clement’s development as a whole resides in his ability to pick and find the cutback lane, when to bounce it to the outside, and where the space in between the tackles. Wisconsin does a great job between the tackles on zone runs creating space within running lanes. Let’s take these two runs, one from the game against Rutgers in 2015 and one from Minnesta in 2014 as examples of finding space and manipulating defenders.
Quick disclosure: I love Wisconsin’s run blocking schemes. They create space so well and account for defenders. Here they have everyone from the right guard to the left tackle blocking away from the direction of the run, essentially creating a wash that the defensive linemen and linebackers have to work back against. Meanwhile the fullback, one Derek Watt, is going to move up and engage the defensive end currently lining up on top of the TE. The TE is going to swing inside to engage the defensive tackle, while the RT heads straight for the second level and the middle linebacker.
The left side of the line completely destroys Rutgers’ D-Line and linebackers. Meanwhile on the play side, the outside end is being politely escorted past the play by Derek Watt while the tackle and TE attempt to keep the LB and DT from plugging the hole. The strong safety steps up to meet Clement in the running lane, while the LB swims over the RT’s block in an attempt to help clog the lane.
Clement sees this and spots the space vacated by the RT and LB. He cuts back inside where there are now acres of space. In the process, he freezes the safety and cuts back inside, rendering the LB and the safety useless on the play. As some of you may have noticed in that second image, Clement had a wide open lane up the middle but didn’t deviate from his path. While it was a tempting opportunity, it would have worked against all the great work that the left side of the offensive line did to clear out the Rutgers’ defensive line. It would also allow the safety on the opposite side of play to get back into the play. With Clement’s decision, he keeps the safety on the far side, as far away from the play as possible. to the point where once Clement makes his cut, the safety has no chance of getting to him.
Here’s another example of Clement taking defenders out of the play with well-timed cuts and manipulation.
Here we have a similar style set up, in that it’s a zone scheme with large chunks of the offensive line down blocking away from the play side. the RG and the TE are going to swing around and block on the play side, while the rest of the offensive line steps into their blocks to wash the line away from the play. In particular the RG is going to provide a back side block to the LDE, taking him out of the play, while the TE acts as the lead blocker, stepping up into in the hole and engaging the LB at the second level.
The linebacker here completely misreads the play and runs past the open lane. The TE then engages him as a means to stop him from getting back into the play while Clement progresses.
Note here the play side WR coming in from the play side to engage the safety, leaving a corner on the that side who now has to cover 3-4 yards to get back into the play. The far side receiver also does a good job engaging the linebacker (No.50). As Clement moves forward into the lane, both the far side DL and LB have been rendered inert, while the pulling RG and TE have neutralised the play side DE and LB, not giving them any chance to get back into the play.
As you can see, the play side corner has come in off the boundary to plug one side of the defense. Much like the example above. Clement notes the open space to his right and the fact that the more space he can put between him and the corner, the more yards he can make. With this being the case, Clement cuts to the space on the right and clear into an open lane.
It’s this kind of vision that gets me excited about Clement’s potential. It’s his recognitition of the development of blocks and being able to exploit the moments in which there is open space.
Clement’s strengths within the system can often prove to be a hinderance, though. When asked to improvise or great space and yardage outside of the tackles, Clement can struggle. It’s often a crutch for young RBs to bounce it to the outside and attack the smaller corners when the interior blocking doesn’t create an immediate running lane to attack. Take these two examples, where blocks don’t develop to the front and Clement attempts to run around the defense by bouncing it to the outside.
Clement’s strength’s may not be in his work in broken plays, but his vision and anticipation are definitely things that can translate well to the NFL. If put in a zone blocking scheme similar to the one utilised at Wisconsin, Clement could definitely become one of the better backs to come out of this draft. That’s not to say that Clement couldn’t exist in another style of system; his footballing IQ appears to be one of his strengths from watching his processing and progression of the blocking schemes in front of him. This will translate to any system; it’ll just be a case of how Clement manages those moments when the offensive line in front of him breaks down.