Posted-July 17, 2014 4:19 pm
MADISON, Wis. -- Melvin Gordon is a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball, but even the Badgers’ big-play back will have a hard time running away from a talented field vying for the title of the nation’s top runner.
Gordon was among the headliners Thursday as the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced its preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is in its 25th year of honoring the best running back in college football. He was a semifinalist for the award last season, when he rushed for 1,609 yards – second-best among returning players -- and led the nation with an average of 7.8 yards per carry.
Chief among Gordon’s competition are two other returning semifinalists from 2013, Nebraska senior Ameer Abdullah and South Carolina junior Mike Davis. Abdullah is the nation’s top returning rusher after piling up 1,690 yards last season, while Davis totaled 1,183 yards for the year.
Gordon is one of eight Big Ten running backs named to the watch list, which tabbed 53 players in all.
A preseason first-team All-American by both Phil Steele and Athlon, Gordon enters the season as the nation’s active career leader in rushing average at an explosive 8.08 yards per carry. He led the nation in runs of 60-plus (4) and 70-plus (3) yards last season.
The Kenosha native will be the Badgers’ starter in the backfield after sharing carries last season with then-senior RB James White. Led by Gordon’s 1,609, the duo piled up 3,053 yards to set the FBS single-season record for rushing yards by teammates. Gordon finished the season ranked No. 11 nationally in yards per game at 123.8 and scored 12 rushing touchdowns.
The Badgers have had a running back advance at least to the semifinalist stage of the Doak Walker voting in each of the last four seasons. John Clay (2010) and Montee Ball (2011, 2012) were each named finalists before Gordon was a semifinalist in 2013.
Ball became the Badgers’ second winner of the Doak Walker Award when he collected the honor as a senior in 2012. Ron Dayne claimed the award after becoming the FBS’ all-time leading rusher as a senior in 1999.
Gordon is also a returning semifinalist named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which honors college football’s top player.
Semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award will be named Nov. 18, with a selection committee voting on a group of three finalists on Nov. 24. The award will be presented Dec. 11 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show.