The Best of the B1G: #9 James White

b1g_iconAs we get into the top ten players we come across a guy who is 21st on his school’s all-time rushing yards list (less than 300 yards away from jumping to 12th) despite having played behind two players in the top eight. He led his team in rushing yards his freshman season, but has never done so again, and has never led the team in carries. If you guessed Wisconsin senior running back James White, great job! During White’s freshman season, he was a part of a remarkable rushing display by the Badgers in which they were four yards away from having three backs cross the 1000-yard threshold. He played behind John Clay (8th all-time) and Montee Ball (2nd all-time), yet had more yards than both of them that season averaging an impressive 6.74 yards per carry! This is the first season in which White will be the top-tier back as Ball left for the NFL (2nd round to the Broncos) after breaking the FBS records for both rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a career.

james-whiteUnfortunately for White, his head coach Bret Bielema, who was a strong proponent of the running game, left to coach at Arkansas. In comes Gary Anderson from Utah State as Bielema’s successor and White now faces his second consecutive season with a new set of position coaches. Badgers fans should find some comfort in the fact that Anderson ran the ball more than he passed it last season with the Aggies (473 vs. 420) and that running back Kerwynn Williams ran the ball over 200 times. White also lost two of his offensive linemen to the NFL (Travis Frederick, C, 1st round, Cowboys; Ricky Wagner, OT, 5th round, Ravens), however, Bielema has always done a great job at stockpiling talent on the line.

The schedule that White and the Badgers face this season could help in White having a strong season. They avoid playing the defenses of Michigan and Michigan State (unfortunately, perhaps, they also avoid the team against which they rushed for 539 yards last season: Nebraska) and get BYU and Penn State at home. Visits to Arizona State and Ohio State could pose problems to the running game because there’s a decent chance they could be playing from behind early in both game. On the other hand, the Badgers’ deficiency in the passing game may force Anderson to try to turn to the running game regardless. White averaged an unbelieveable 17.60 yards on third down season and a whopping 27.67 yards on third down with 10+ to go so Anderson shouldn’t be scared to hand him the ball in nearly any situation.

Instead of following the trend that has swept college football over the past several years in which players transfer when they don’t win the starting job immediately, White made an impact as a freshman despite being third of the depth chart and now, as a senior, gets his chance to prove what he can do. He won’t have to do it alone. Melvin Gordon made a name for himself as a freshman last year rushing for 602 yards and averaging 10 yards per carry. Badger Nation should be excited about the running game yet again this season led by James White who should easily break the 1500-yard mark. If they can get any production from their quarterbacks (to keep defenses from constantly loading the box) the Badgers could even make a run at a 9 or 10 win season. I think Anderson may turn to junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy, but we’ll have to see about that.

Previously on MotSaG’s Best of the B1G
#10 Trevor Siemian/Kain Colter
Best of the B1G, #15-11
Best of the B1G, #20-16
Best of the B1G, #25-21


  1. I think he may be a little high ranked in the top 10… Maybe I got him confused with Montee Ball lol

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