Plenty Wisconsin Badgers NFL-bound after draft process
MADISON—Of all the traits tailback James White displayed during his four years at Wisconsin, patience might have been No. 1 on the list.
After rushing for more than 1,000 yards and being named Big Ten freshman of the year in 2010, White had to wait his turn behind Montee Ball for two seasons.
White returned to the fore as a senior with his best overall season at UW and on Saturday had to wait until the fourth round of the National Football League draft before learning his future home.
Eleven other running backs were taken before White went No. 130 overall to the New England Patriots.
“That is what James White had to have,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said during the telecast, referring to his patience. “Think of what he want through at Wisconsin.
“Montee Ball was there … big John Clay. And then here comes (Melvin) Gordon last year.”
White was among five UW players taken in the draft.
Safety Dezmen Southward (No. 68 overall, Atlanta) and Chris Borland (No. 77 overall, San Francisco) were selected Friday in the third round. On Saturday, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis was selected by Green Bay with the final pick of the fifth round, No. 176 overall. Defensive lineman Beau Allen was the final UW player drafted, going in the seventh round, No. 224 overall, to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Several other UW draft-eligible players, including tight end Jacob Pedersen and offensive lineman Ryan Groy, will have to sign free-agent deals. Defensive lineman Ethan Hemer agreed to a free-agent deal with the Steelers.
Two other players with state ties, both graduates of Homestead High School, were selected in the seventh round.
Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner was taken No. 231 overall by the Dallas Cowboys, who desperately need defensive help. Gardner helped Stanford defeat UW, 20-14, in the 2013 Rose Bowl.
Illinois State defensive end Shelby Harris went four picks later to the Oakland Raiders. Harris redshirted in 2009 at UW but was suspended in February 2010 for a violation of team rules and eventually removed from the program by then-coach Bret Bielema.
North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen, from Waupaca, agreed to a free-agent deal with Miami.
White rushed for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and became an integral part of what eventually became a three-headed monster at tailback with Clay and Ball.
Ball was the clear No. 1 tailback and White his backup in 2011 and 2012, though White combined for 1,519 yards and 18 touchdowns in those two seasons.
White and Gordon split the workload last season, but the senior finished with a personal-best 1,444 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and personal-best marks for receptions (39) and receiving yards (300).
“What a career James White had at Wisconsin,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during the coverage of the draft. “Think about the improvement in terms of catching the football out of the backfield.
“He is not great in any one area physically, but he is a football player.”
Stanford coach David Shaw, who faced UW in the 2013 Rose Bowl and was providing analysis for the NFL Network, noted that Ball and Gordon had more physical talent than White.
“This kid was the least talented of the backs,” he said. “(But) this is a productive, good running back. …
“One of the best things about now, which we remind guys all the time, is it’s not about who does pick you. The team that picks you is the one that wants you. It only takes one and you’re going to go in and give your best.”
White appears to be stepping into a promising situation in New England.
The Patriots’ leading rusher, LeGarrette Blount, signed a free-agent deal with Pittsburgh. The remaining backs on the depth chart—Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden—are entering the final year of their contracts.
‘I just played my role on the team,” White said Saturday during a conference call when asked about his time at UW. “Something I have to do once I get to this organization is play my role.
“Wherever the coach puts me, I’m going to go out there, whether it’s special teams or offense or whatever they want me to do, I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to help the team.”
Allen, who was not invited to the NFL scouting combine, joins a team that finished 29th in the league in total defense (394.0 ypg) last season.
The 6-foot-2, 329-pound Allen played in 54 games, with 26 starts at UW. He played all of the 2012 season on a bad ankle that required surgery in the off-season. He came back to record 20 tackles in 13 games last season.
“He doesn’t move great, but he is a tough run-stuffer,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during the telecast. “He brings a little bit of size. This kid wins with size. He is a two-down thumper.”