A Heartland Change

High school football recruiting is a business. James White found that out when one of his favorites, Iowa, pulled his scholarship offer in the fall. Choosing Wisconsin in January and already a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, White hopes to show No.13 Iowa what the Hawkeyes are missing.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Few people have had as unique a perspective on the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry and the Heartland Trophy like true freshman running back James White. He's seen the trophy case at Iowa, where the bronze bull given to the winner of the game has resided for the past two seasons. He walks by the empty one at Wisconsin daily, serving as a motivational tool for his teammates.

"That trophy needs to come back over here," White said with a laugh. "We need to go out and play hard so we can bring that trophy back to Madison."

Once thought to be running against the Badgers, White will look to keep his team's solid running attack moving forward when No.10 Wisconsin faces No.13 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium this afternoon.

That trophy was one of the many selling points White was given during his recruitment last summer. One of the best running backs in Florida playing at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, White was a rated a three-star running back by Scout.com and received offers from Clemson, Iowa, Michigan State, and N.C. State among others.

White took separate officials visits to both schools last September, and got the same recruiting pitch from both coaching staffs.

"The schools (Iowa and Wisconsin) do similar things," said White. "It's all about who does it better. We know what they do, and they know what we do."

During every recruiting cycle, the Wisconsin coaches seem to butt heads more often with Iowa than any other program. Combining similar schemes and similar philosophies, it's not uncommon to see Wisconsin and Iowa recruit the same tight end, offensive linemen and running backs no matter what area of the country the player resides.

"We recruit against Iowa here in our state, and their state, in Illinois, Minneapolis, but also we end up recruiting against them in south Florida, in Texas, in St. Louis, in Ohio, in Pittsburgh, because of the same philosophies," said Bielema.

The two schools even know each school's recruiting tactics, meaning there are no secrets hidden between the two schools separated by only 175 miles.

"Every time somebody goes to visit there, the first thing, I can write it down to a tee, they're going to come back and say, ‘Coach, can we see your tattoo?'" stated Bielema, referring to the Iowa tattoo inked on his calf from when he played for the Hawkeyes. "Every Iowa coach says that to him so I know their routine, and it's nothing surprising."

White was learning toward Iowa after his visits when the Hawkeyes got a commitment from another running back, pulling their offer and opening the door for Wisconsin. White committed to Wisconsin in January after he drove to Orlando and watched in person as the Badgers out muscled Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

"I had to keep looking at my other choices, I ended up here and I don't regret any of it," White said. "When I came up here, it was a great experience. I love it."

Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) has certainly enjoyed White in the backfield. Splitting carries with reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay, White has found his niche, rushing for 436 of his 560 yards this season and all nine of his TDs over the last four games.

White and Clay are the only duo in the country to each average at least 80.0 rushing yards a game and their combined 1,356 yards is the best nationally for a running back tandem. With Iowa (5-1, 2-0) ranked seventh nationally against the run at 83.8 yards per game, opponents are averaging only 2.9 yards per carry and have trouble adjusting to a rowdy environment where the fans and students are right on top of the visitors.

White, who scored the game-clinching touchdown against then-No.1 Ohio State last week, was one of those fans last year.

"I feel I am prepared, but each week is different," he said. "I kind of know what to expect, but you have to go in there, knowing you have to be focused and be on your ‘A' game."

Wisconsin has lost the recruiting battle with Iowa twice this year, as St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) quarterback Jacob Rudock and Kenosha Bradford (Wis.) running back Melvin Gordon have selected the Hawkeyes, but the Badgers are more than happy to have White pushing Wisconsin toward a conference title.

"We know that if we wanted to get a possible share of this Big Ten conference championship, we're going to have to beat Iowa and keep winning the rest of the season," White said. "We flipped the page and knew we had to get ready for this team, because they are a great team. We just have to go out and play Badgers football."

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