Ready and Willing

Wisconsin running back James White is ready for a big game, whenever and wherever his name is called.

LINCOLN, Neb.- While most teams would hold their collective breaths when its starting running back is knocked out with nearly three quarters to go, the University of Wisconsin simply points to another All-American on the bench  

With Montee Ball sidelined at the beginning of the second quarter because of a concussion last weekend, White carried the load with 15 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-26 victory over UTEP  

"Overall, I had a pretty good performance," said White. "There are always little things you can improve here and there, but I did a fairly good job to show the coaches that there wasn't going to be a drop off after Montee got hurt."  

So when Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema confirmed Thursday that senior tailback Montee Ball would play in tonight's primetime against No.22 Nebraska, it was not a shock for White.  

White said he knew on Saturday that Ball – a Heisman finalist a season ago and team captain – would find a way to be on the Memorial Stadium field for the Badgers conference opener, meaning it's not going to be the first time White has been relegated to second fiddle.  

With the emergence of Ball late last season, White, the conference's freshman of the year in 2010, struggled to find playing time. Only 380 of his 713 rushing yards came in conference play (297 coming in Wisconsin blowout wins).  While also averaged 1.6 yards per carry less last season and his touchdowns dropped from 14 to six last season.  

Touchdowns for him were so hard to come by that when White scored against the Miners, it was his first touchdown since November 5, 2011, a span of seven games.  

"James has been through a lot," said Ball. "For him to stick around and keep battling through it, he deserves getting the shot."  

White's talents have not gone unnoticed from the coaching staff's perspective, as evident by the way he's been worked into the offense. Upon arriving at Wisconsin and see what kind of personnel he had to work with, offensive coordinator Matt Canada recognized that White was too valuable to leave on the sidelines.  

"He's a tremendous talented football player," said Canada. "He's a 1,000-yard rusher. He's a starter. He's really, really good. He can catch the ball, run physical and is a talented football player."  

With that in mind and recognizing Wisconsin was thin at the receiver position, Canada devised a plan in spring football to start utilize White more in the passing game. A year after catching 15 for 150 yards, White has been used in motion and split out as a flanker through the nonconference season, a new role that required him to learn the X, F and Z positions, as well as the fullback.  

With four catches for 43 receiving yards, learning more positions alone helped White stay mentally locked in throughout the early season.  

"I try to lock in during practice and work hard during practice because it makes it that much easier during the game," said White. "That's something I have really trying to focus on this year to have the coaches put a lot more trust in my hands."    

Although his home is Fort Lauderdale, White's parents fly to every game and his father, a Florida police officer, delivers the same message: stay level headed and keep working hard because they know what he's capable of.    

"It's still been fun," said White. "Whenever I get my opportunities to get out on the field, I try to take advantage of it. I know a lot of people would like to be in my shoes. I can't take things for granted. I am blessed to have this opportunity, and I have to take advantage of it.


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