Big Ten rankings: No. 4, John Clay

The Big Ten preseason player rankings, based on past performance and 2010 potential, continue with ...

No. 4: John Clay, RB, Wisconsin, Jr., 6-1, 248

2009 numbers: Led the Big Ten and ranked 12th nationally in rushing (1,517 rush yards, 116.7 ypg); finished second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (121.4 ypg); led the Big Ten in scoring (8.3 ppg) and tied for 12th nationally with 18 touchdowns; rushed for 100 yards or more in nine games and had multiple touchdown runs in five contests; finished third in school history with 5.43 yards per rush (minimum 300 attempts).

Most recent ranking: No. 9 in the 2009 postseason player rankings.

Making the case for Clay: You saw the potential in 2008, but Clay really blossomed last fall and became the dominant downhill runner Wisconsin expected when he signed in 2007. The redshirt sophomore was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and moved up Wisconsin's rushing list to 10th in career yards (2,401) and sixth in career rushing touchdowns (27). He turned in huge performances against Minnesota (184 rush yards, 3 TDs), Purdue (123 rush yards, 3 TDs), Michigan (151 rush yards, 1 TD) and Hawaii (172 rush yards, 3 TDs). And like several of the others in my top 10, Clay finished the year on a high note, earning Champs Sports Bowl MVP honors after rushing for 121 yards and two scores against Miami. He still needs to prove he can perform against the Big Ten's best defenses, as both Ohio State (59 rush yards) and Iowa (75 rush yards) contained him in Wisconsin losses. But in many ways, Clay is the prototypical Wisconsin running back, a big, physical runner who knows how to use his blocks and steamroll opposing defenders. Clay also should be more durable following offseason surgeries on his ankles, which had given him chronic problems throughout his career. A Playboy preseason All-American, Clay could find his way onto the Heisman Trophy radar with a strong start to the season.

The rundown

  • No. 25: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

  • No. 24: Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure

  • No. 23: Iowa DT Karl Klug

  • No. 22: Northwestern LB Quentin Davie

  • No. 21: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins

  • No. 20: Ohio State LB Brian Rolle

  • No. 19: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien

  • No. 18: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi

  • No. 17: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey

  • No. 16: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland

  • No. 15: Wisconsin G/C John Moffitt

  • No. 14: Indiana WR Tandon Doss

  • No. 13: Purdue WR Keith Smith

  • No. 12: Ohio State LB Ross Homan

  • No. 11: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi

  • No. 10: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

  • No. 9: Ohio State G Justin Boren

  • No. 8: Penn State G/C Stefen Wisniewski

  • No. 7: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor

  • No. 6: Penn State RB Evan Royster

  • No. 5: Iowa S Tyler Sash