At 255 pounds, John Clay is almost certainly the biggest tailback the Gophers will face this season, and poses a challenge that's difficult to prepare for. But D.L. Wilhite has lots of experience in dealing with a jumbo back.
Well, sort of. See, Wilhite used to be one.
"I was a 255-pound tailback in high school, so I kind of know what it's like to be John Clay," Wilhite said of his all-conference season at Bryan Station High in Lexington, Ky. "I know it takes a lot to bring you down."
It certainly did last season, when Clay, then a sophomore en route to Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, scored three touchdowns against the Gophers while piling up 184 yards. Wilhite wasn't a starter last year, so he's looking forward to a few collisions with Clay in Madison.
"I've never had to tackle anyone that big. You just have to stick with your fundamentals and wrap up," the sophomore said. "It's tougher for the back-end guys once he gets a full head of steam, so it's up to us on the line to make sure he's cutting early and doesn't get momentum."
Does that prospect make this game particularly exciting for Minnesota's young defensive line?
"It doesn't take anything extra to get us excited this week. We're playing for the Axe," Wilhite said. "Just say 'Wisconsin,' that's enough to get us ready."