Carrying the Burden

After a breakout freshman season, earning the conference player of the year honors, sophomore James White is looking to met the high expectations he's put on himself ... and to maintain focus throughout every play.

MADISON – After trying to be too charismatic with the football in the second week of the season, freshman running back James White never fumbled again en route to winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

After two weeks of spring ball, a loss of focus has caused White to practice his distance running.

One of the few freshmen from Wisconsin's 2010 signing class to play last season, White tied a freshman record with four rushing touchdowns in one game against Austin Peay, averaged 6.74 yards per rush ranks (second-best in school history with min. 100 attempts), his 1,052 rushing yards is fourth-most in a single-season by a freshman at UW and he led the team in rushing yards and all-purpose yards.

As a group more importantly, White's fumble was the only fumble UW's running backs had all season long.

Just five practices into spring ball, White has that same speed from the line of scrimmage, but fumbles in team drills have been somewhat surprising, and each one resulting in new running back coach Thomas Hammock sending the sophomore on a lap around the field. He fixed that problem Saturday, reeling off a couple lengthy runs without any coughing up the football.

Before Saturday's scrimmage, White talks to Badger Nation about his spring and growing from last season.

Badger Nation: You had a lot of high moments from last year and I am sure getting to the Rose Bowl was one of them. However, I know you were disappointed by that game (23 yards on 8 carries), so did that damper the things you were able to accomplish last season?

White: It did. I was still pleased with the things I was able to accomplish and how I played. I wish we could have come out and won the game. We still have this year and we can bounce back. We have a really good team. If we work hard during the spring and the summer, come the fall we will be all right.

Badger Nation: Was it easy to turn the page from last season to this season?

White: Not really, but you get over it. Me being a freshman, I still have two or three more years and I am going out to practice every day, trying to give it up my to help my team keep winning Big Ten championships and try to get to the national championship. That's the goal.

Badger Nation: When you watch film of yourself from last year, what were some of the big things that you saw, both good and bad?

White: Good, I would say that I was making good cuts and making people miss in the open field. Bad, I wasn't really running with power. A lot of us were tripping just by people slapping our feet. We need to pick up our feet and run through tackles, and I think we'll get a lot better just by watching ourselves from last year. Coach Hammock has already got on us about that and he's going hard on it, so we'll be ready come the season.

Badger Nation: Coach Hammock isn't as laid back as Coach Settle was. What's it like having that attitude on you every day?

White: It's going to push you past your limits. When you don't think you can do it, it doesn't matter because he's going to make you get through it. Just knowing that, you are going to give it your all each and every play. Believe it or not, you'll be running hard each and every play and that practice will have paid off on game day.

Badger Nation: It makes you more aware, too, because even after you fumble after the play is over, he still makes you run a lap. Is he trying to train you to never let your guard down?

White: He's stressing that and to me, especially. I tend to relax after I get past the last defender and somebody will come up and pop the ball out. That's what I have to get better at, keeping the ball high and tight all the time.

Badger Nation: It's pretty impressive though that this group only had one fumble last year isn't it?

White: That's the main thing because Coach Settle always stressed to us that ball security is job security. That was a real big thing for us because that's the most important thing for us as a running back group.

Badger Nation: How does the running back dynamic change without John Clay here?

White: I mean, honestly, he's gone and we still have a great stable of running backs. John was a very good running back but we have confidence in every single running back here that we can fill his role and keep getting better.

Badger Nation: You mentioned that you were upset with your lower body strength at times. How did you target that during winter conditioning to turn that weakness into a strength?

White: Just getting into the squat rack, listen to Coach Herbert, keep putting more and more weight on the rack and get your legs stronger as a whole. Just working on cuts after practice and doing everything I can. As soon as he came in, Coach Hammock pointed out all the times we get knocked over by a slap tackle. That's something we've all been trying to get better at.

Badger Nation: Is that something you feel you have gotten stronger at or is it still a work in progress?

White: I feel we have. Just doing the little things, like when someone hits your feet, picking your head up will help you lift yourself up and avoid that. I think we've all gotten better at that.

Badger Nation: What's the big thing you are trying to do for an encore this year because you set the bar pretty high for yourself?

White: My goal is to do better than last year because people have film on me now and they know they need to stop No.20 and stop No.28 (Montee Ball). My goal is to say they won't be able to stop me and know that I am going to do better than last year. That's my goal.

Badger Nation: You don't look much different than last year, but how much weight or strength have you put on over winter conditioning?

White: I weight 203 right now and I have gotten a lot stronger. I am just trying to keep my speed and keep getting faster and stronger.

Badger Nation: Who has impressed you with you run on the defensive side of the ball? You have gone against these guys for a good year, so I am curious as to who opens your eyes?

White: I would say Kevin Claxton because he's always around the ball and he's fast for a linebacker. He's in on every play. I feel like this defense is going to be just as good as last year, because we have a lot of returning players that have game experience.

Badger Nation: You can say that about the offensive line, too, especially with guys like Travis Frederick and Casey Dehn having started games last season?

White: We work great together. Coach Bostad does a great job with those guys. I probably ran behind all of them last season. Coach Bostad really works them hard to get the best out of them and the most out of them.

Badger Nation: What are your goals over the next three weeks as a player to where you finish spring football pleased with your progress?

White: Ball security, run with explosiveness and make an explosive play every time I touch the ball. I want to make my presence felt every time I am on the field.

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