Spring Q&A: James White

Having the most career yardage of any returning running back in college football this season, senior tailback James White is ready to be the focal point in Wisconsin's offense this season. White talks Wisconsin football with Badger Nation.

After all these years at Wisconsin, are you happy that Montee is finally gone?

James White: (laughing) It's bittersweet. He's somebody you can learn from each and every day, come out and compete against and you get better. There's still competition between me and Melvin (Gordon), Jeff (Lewis) and Vonte (Jackson). We're going to come out and still compete each and every day. Now all of us have an opportunity to show it.

You really seem to catch fire at the end of last season. What changed in the second half of the season that you were playing more aggressive?

White: I just tried to stay focused and stay locked in to the little things. Little things become big things when they matter, whether it's footwork, zone play or just knowing your protections. I just try to help the team out in whatever I could when I touched the ball. I just tried to make a play. Coach Hammock always says try to get four yards before you get 40. I had a bad mentality my sophomore year of trying to make a play every time I touched the ball. You have to start small before you can get big.

When you went over the film from last year and watched your games, what did you like that you did and what things did you see that you know you had to improve on?

White: I definitely thought my footwork and I hit the holes pretty good, but I think I can get better at making people miss in the open field. That's something that after my freshman year I slacked off a little bit. It's something I need to work on along with pass protection. As a running back, you have to be able to pass protect. That's the only way you are going to be out there all three downs. It comes down to that.

You are a highly motivated guy so when you look at the Rose Bowl, that wasn't a very positive way to end the year for you and the team. Do you think about the game still or is it in the past?

White: It's a little bit of both. You have to try to put it past you, but at the same time keep it in the back of your head where you left off last season. You just have to try to end with a better result this season.

How have you grown since that game?

White: For me it's my last year here and it's gone by fast. I definitely have to step up now as a leader. I am one of the older guys now. We have a big group of seniors, a lot of experience out here. We're trying to work together and with the new coaching staff, we have a lot of transition. We're trying to hit the ground running come fall time.

It doesn't appear you have changed much physically since last season, so how are you a different player than last season? What did you work on?

White: I really haven't changed too much. I am just trying to be in the best of shape possible so I can be on the field at any time possible and as long as possible. That's something we are striving on as a running back group – to be the best conditioned group in the nation. All of us want to work hard and wear down the defense.

You've had three offensive coordinators in three years. How challenging is that and how much have you learned from all the different offenses and philosophies you have been a part of?

White: You definitely learn a lot. It's not too difficult. It keeps you focused on little things. Some things you may forget if you keep running the same plays over, over and over again. It's not too many new things as much as a new language with same concepts. You learn a lot and that's what it could be like on the next level. You may get traded or something like that and you have to learn the playbook quickly in order to contribute. You never know, it may help in the future.

What are your impressions of new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and of the offense he's going to try and run this year for you?

White: He's very smart. We're going to pass the ball a little more, but we're still going to have an aggressive offense. We're going to want to wear down the defense. Watching film with him, he knows what he's doing.

When you look at last year's offense, despite having a different coaching staff now, you had three running backs that were very talented and all who got a lot of carries. Does that excite you that those who are ready to play will get carries this season?

White: Yeah, we definitely have a lot of great backs here and we are up to the challenge if they put us out on the football field. Whether they line one of us up at receiver and one at running back at the same time or something else, we have endless possibilities. We just have to work hard and show in practice what we can do.

What are some of the challenges you are facing this spring?

White: Just trying to embrace everything and keep my mind on here, not anywhere else. I still have a full year left here. When the time comes for whatever is after this, it comes. I have to stay focused, just work hard for this team and lay it all on the line.

This season is like a free agency year for you in a way. We saw what you could do as a freshman rushing for over 1,000 yards, but we haven't seen much of you since. It's almost like this year is your chance to prove you can still play at a high level, right?

White: Most definitely. I think I have a lot to prove. It keeps me focused, keeps me grounded and nothing is handed to me. I have to earn it and it starts each day by coming out here in the spring and working, proving that I am an every-down back.

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