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Reunited: Former Wisconsin teammate Derek Watt should boost Melvin Gordon

SAN DIEGO -- When the San Diego Chargers selected Derek Watt in the sixth round of this year’s draft, they reunited Melvin Gordon with his former fullback at Wisconsin, hoping to rekindle the chemistry the two created for the Badgers.

“Obviously, he was my fullback at Wisconsin, and you two have to be on the same page back there,” Gordon said. “You have to be on the same page as the linemen, but you have to be on the same page with the fullback as well.

“Watt definitely helped me out throughout the years.”

In an effort to help improve the running game and get Gordon on track, the Chargers brought in Watt, younger brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Gordon had his best season at Wisconsin in 2014 with Watt as his lead blocker, totaling 2,587 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns for the Badgers that season.

“Melvin and I were really close,” Watt said. “We came in as freshmen. The first summer we were actually roommates during summer workouts and I spent a lot of time with him and just really got to know him.

“During our career we were in the same meeting rooms and hanging out off the field. It was definitely a blast. We stayed in touch. We’re definitely close, and it’ll be a great time getting out there with him again.”

The Chargers also had success running the football while using fullback LeRon McClain in offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s scheme in 2013. So with Whisenhunt returning as the team’s offensive coordinator, it makes sense that the Chargers would add a fullback.

The Chargers ran the most plays from shotgun in the NFL last season, which served as a major adjustment for Gordon, who was more accustomed to running two-back sets at Wisconsin.

San Diego is not going to move fully away from the shotgun because of the success that Philip Rivers has moving the football. But the Chargers probably will incorporate more two-back sets to give Gordon a better chance at success, particularly as he rehabs from microfracture knee surgery in January.

The Chargers averaged a league-worst 3.5 yards per carry in 2015. With Whisenhunt overseeing the offense in 2013, San Diego averaged just over 4 yards per carry.

San Diego used two running backs on just 12 running plays in 2015. With Whisenhunt running the offense in 2013, the Chargers used two-running back sets on 115 running plays.

“What he [Whisenhunt] focuses on is being balanced,” Gordon said. “We want to be able to run the ball, but also do what we do and pass the ball. You’ve got to be happy with both, and know how to do both to win in this league. And so that’s what he’s focusing on.”

While San Diego would like to use a fullback more, as a late-round selection Watt still has to make the roster. The Chargers also signed undrafted rookie fullback Chris Swain out of Navy, and tight end Sean McGrath also can be used as a fullback.

“It’s not only the fullback position on offense, but that’s a position where a player has to contribute on special teams, too,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “When we’ve carried the four tight ends the past couple years, you look at the roster and see how they’ve helped at the ‘F’ position as a move tight end, or they’re lining up as a true fullback in a two-back set and in the kicking game also. So we evaluate everything they do, and not just as a fullback.”