White ending UW career with a bang
Despite being able to outrun the Indiana secondary 93 yards to the end zone to set the record for longest run in program history, James White isn't the fastest tailback on the Wisconsin roster.
That honor likely belongs to reserve Jeff Lewis.
At 5 feet 10 inches and 195 pounds, White isn't the biggest of UW's tailbacks. Rather, he is the shortest and lightest of the bunch.
What White possesses, however, is the ability to make quick, explosive cuts either in traffic near the line of scrimmage or when he is in the open field with one defender to beat.
“James has done a great job with that,” UW coach Gary Andersen said this week as the Badgers prepared for their key Big Ten game against host Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. “It was a point of emphasis after spring ball and watching last year's tape…to get him in a position to make those people miss.
“And he's done it numerous times—safeties, linebackers, corners. He's been very, very good at that this year, breaking off big runs.”
White has 12 runs of 20 yards or more this season with an average of 41.7 yards on those carries.
Only three of the runs have been touchdowns, but on several of the runs he has made quick cuts either in the hole to get into the open field or made a cut once in the open field to gain more yardage.
Perhaps his signature run was a 70-yard touchdown against Purdue, on third and 1, when he made both safeties miss and scored untouched.
“I just try to make full-speed cuts,” White said. “Because if you are running full speed it (forces) defenders to open up their hips, and when they open up their hips that is when I put my foot in the ground.”
And cut. Hard. Fast. Boom! White is gone and the defender is left grasping air.
“I'd never say I'm a running back coach in any way, shape, or form,” Andersen said. “But he does a tremendous job of not allowing defenders to eat up the grass. We talk about that all the time on defense.
“You want to eat up as much grass as you can to get yourself in position to get him on the ground. Sometimes you've got to take a charge. Sometimes you've got to reach.
“Those guys aren't getting a finger on James. So obviously, he does a tremendous job setting up (his cut) with distance left on the defender.”
Minnesota (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) enters the game seventh in the Big Ten in rushing defense at 147.0 yards per game.
White has rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns, 147 yards and two touchdowns and 205 yards and one touchdown in his last three games to push his season totals to 1,156 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Perhaps more relevant this week is that in three games against the Gophers White has 48 carries for 380 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and 126.7 per game against them.
Andersen smiled when asked what he would be thinking about if he had White one-on-one in the open field.
“Probably how I would explain the missed tackle; don't get too embarrassed on film,” he said. “If it was me personally, I've got no shot. I couldn't tackle that guy in a phone booth, let alone the open field.”
UW linebacker Chris Borland, who has gone up against White in practice, understands the difficulty of the task.
“It's got to be terrible for those guys,” he said. “James cuts so well and is so patient. He would be a difficult running back to bring down.”
Andersen, who has coached White for less than a full season, understands that.
“He probably wouldn't be able to tackle me,” White said when informed of Andersen's self-deprecating response. “That is something I pride myself on.
“I feel when the offensive line, tight ends and receivers give me an opportunity to be one-on-one with somebody in the open field I have to win those situations.”