White still top running back

first_imgThree years ago a freshman came to Madison and took Camp Randall by storm by putting up a 1,000-yard season to go with 14 touchdowns. Badger fans were anointing him the next great Wisconsin tailback. And then, just like that, James White seemed to be put on the back burner.Now in his farewell tour with the Badgers, White is proving that he is the great running back people once thought he was going to be.No one can blame White for getting lost in the shuffle of Wisconsin’s tailbacks — if 1,500-plus rushing yards and 19 touchdowns through two seasons qualify as a letdown. It is no secret that the backfield at Camp Randall is a timeshare and not an all-inclusive stay and with the likes of John Clay and Monte Ball as running mates, it’s no wonder White could not live up to expectations in his sophomore and junior campaigns.This season though, with Ball out of the picture, was seen as White’s time to shine. And then the Melvin-mania began.With fewer snaps and carries, Melvin Gordon burst onto the scene rushing for more yards and touchdowns than White through Wisconsin’s first seven games.Gordon’s name began to pop up on Heisman watch lists and MGIII was all anyone cared to talk about when it came to the Badgers’ offense. Once again, it seemed as though White was an afterthought in his final season at Wisconsin.White stayed the course, deflecting questions from the media about a shrinking role and being overshadowed by Gordon, chipping away at what was given.Now after compiling 345 all-purpose yards along with five touchdowns in Wisconsin’s last two games — while Gordon has gained just 148 yards and no touchdowns during that time — White has thrust himself back into the conversation.It seems like just yesterday people were calling for Gordon to get more carries while White would be phased out of the offense, but Andersen, the coaching staff and White himself continued to believe in his contributions to the team and it is paying off big time as Gordon has hit somewhat of a slump in the last two games, while White has picked up the slack.With all of the hoopla surrounding the great campaign Gordon is having this season, White’s performances seem to have gone under the radar, as the senior is well on his way to bookending his career at Wisconsin with 1,000-yard rushing seasons.White deserves credit for what he has done this season along with his entire career at Wisconsin. The senior out of Florida has put together an unbelievable four years while having to battle for snaps, yet White never felt entitled after his Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign.White has continued to put the team first, taking the time that has been given to him by coaches and even more amazingly, he has continued to produce, as he is the active leader in career touchdowns in the FBS with 46.It’s hard to believe that anyone that leads the entire Division I college football world in touchdowns wouldn’t be considered the outright best weapon on that team. Part of that is due to Gordon’s athletic ability, but White’s contributions to the Wisconsin offense do go somewhat underappreciated by the fans.White has proved to be an invaluable asset to the Badger running game as he is capable of running between the tackles, out wide and maybe most importantly he excels at catching balls out of the backfield, something Gordon has yet to add to his game with only one catch on the season.Although White has not put up the monster numbers that Montee Ball has, it’s hard to argue that White has been one of the most valuable backs to come to Wisconsin in some time. His ability to change pace and catch the ball, yet still be an every down back, provides the versatility to coaches to plug him in wherever they need the help the most. Whether it be a big block in pass protection or a tough couple of yards up the middle, White almost always comes up with a positive result.For a college running back to run for 1,000 yards his freshman season and still be with the program and relevant three years later is almost unheard of. So while White may not have broke records or put up monster seasons like some of his backfield mates, he has lived up the billing of a great Wisconsin running back. And that’s not something that is easily done.Spencer is a 5th-year senior majoring in journalism. Do you think White still has it three years after his freshman campaign? Let him know at ssmith@badgerherald.com or on @sj_smith23.last_img

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