Gordon's return pleases Andersen

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sunday, December 22, 2013

MADISON--Melvin Gordon’s decision to delay his dream of playing in the National Football League and return to Wisconsin next season—made before he received an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board—didn’t surprise coach GaryAndersen.

“I had no agenda for the University of Wisconsin, no agenda for myself and no coach had any agenda,” Andersen said after practice Saturday morning. “Just give him the information that we knew and it all worked out what I believe is right and the best situation for him.

“He handled it like a man. His family was highly involved. We talked quite a bit….But no surprise to me. Excited to have him back and it is a great opportunity to have him in our program for another season at least.”

UW officials announced Friday the redshirt sophomore tailback from Kenosha Bradford High School had decided to return to UW. According to Andersen, Gordon made his decision without receiving his draft evaluation.

“That is even more of a credit to him,” Andersen said. “That was not even a factor. It was putting ourselves in a position to play at a high level, and Melvin being the featured back is something that he seemed very excited about.

“Getting closer to getting his degree is something that is important to Melvin. He is in a good spot in both those areas. Those were the major factors in the end.”

Andersen acknowledged that with the decision and subsequent announcement out of the way Gordon should be at ease and focused for the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando.

“I wouldn’t say he was distracted,” Andersen said. “But at the end of the day how could you not be somewhat distracted with that going on in your mind?”

UW has two known commitments from running backs for its 2014 freshman class—Taiwan Deal of Hyattsville, Md., and Caleb Kinlaw of Goose Creek, S.C.—and hasn’t stopped recruiting at the position.

“There’s a couple kids out there that we would love to have,” Andersen said, noting Gordon’s decision to return could affect the decision of a recruit. “I still think that they should come here. The fact that Melvin is staying is not going to be breaking news to the young men that are still thinking about coming to Wisconsin and being a running back.

“Making it (official) that he is coming back, may that sway a young man? I don’t know. I’m sure people will use that against us in recruiting. If they do, that’s the way it goes.”

Injury update: Linebacker Ethan Armstrong (knee) was held out of practice Saturday.

“He is fine,” Andersen said. “We’re just getting him back and icing it down. Our hope is when Ethan gets to Florida he is ready to roll….We need him in this football game.”

Safety Dezmen Southward (wrist) is back practicing and on track to start in the bowl game.

“It’s a progression,” Andersen said. “It’s him getting used to playing with the cast.”

Jordan flashes: Redshirt sophomore A.J. Jordan, who was switched to defensive back from wide receiver at the start of bowl practice, has impressed so far.

During a 2-minute drill Saturday, Jordan stepped in front of wide receiver Robert Wheelwright near the sideline and intercepted a pass from quarterback Curt Phillips.

“He has done some very nice things,” Andersen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him play a couple snaps in the bowl game.

“But his future right now is there. I know he is excited about that.”

Hope for Lewallen?

Offensive line coach T.J. Woods hasn’t ruled out the possibility that redshirt junior center Dallas Lewallen will be healthy enough to play in the bowl game.

Lewallen hasn’t played since Nov. 2 at Iowa, when he aggravated a right knee injury late in the game. Redshirt freshman Dan Voltz has started the last four games at center.

Lewallen had surgery on the knee two days after the regular-season finale against Penn State but has been slow to respond. He did not practice Saturday.

“Dallas is progressing,” Woods said. “It is more that the rate he is progressing isn’t quite what we had hoped for.

“It’s not Dallas’ fault. Dallas wants to be in there. He is grinding and working as hard as he ever has to try to get back….

“I’m optimistic about Dallas still. I think he’s got a chance to be ready. We’ve got time yet before the game. We’ll just kind of play it by ear.”

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