Early in Wisconsin's fall training camp, junior receiver Brandon White looked like a fish out of water. He had thrived in spring practice and was a solid fall away from breaking into the regular rotation. Nothing, however, seemed to go right for about the first week of fall camp.
White was anxious to take the next step after spring, anxious to show receivers coach Henry Mason and offensive coordinator Brian White that their high esteem for him was warranted. He wanted to show off what he could do as a pass-catcher and as a contributor to the offense. He was anxious, he said, to "show them everything, do everything they wanted."
Instead, he was running in place.
"I was too much on the edge and paying attention to the little details and it was hurting me," White said.
A sure-handed receiver and arguably the Badgers' best route-runner, White dropped a number of passes and saw his all-around play slip.
"I just started looking at it for a second and like, ‘This is not how it should be. I know I can do this,'" White said. "[Darrin Charles] comes to me, he's like, ‘man, I know you are getting a lot of time and all that but just settle down and just do what you can do because we all know you can do it.' After that it was fine."
White never lost his coaches' trust.
"The one thing we reminded him of was it was about practice five or six in the spring before he really caught hold, started doing a good job and that's about the same point in time in training camp when he started playing really well," Mason said.
"I'm glad they trusted me," White said. "We have a lot more receivers here, a lot of good receivers here and I wasn't making the plays at the beginning but [they] still stuck with me."
Through five games this season, White has rotated with starting receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr and another top reserve, Charles. His seven catches and 71 receiving yards are both fifth on the team. In his first two years on campus, White caught a combined three passes for 24 yards.
"Honestly, I thank Coach White because they tried to get me the ball early on just some little short routes," Brandon White said. "Just to get it into my hands again and that just really pulled me up."
"He seems to be in game mode now," Mason said. "He's still excited to play, still nervous, like everybody, before a game, but I see a calm about him on the field that he is able to run and think and play within himself."
White played often as a true freshman and sophomore, just not in a pass-catching capacity. Long a stalwart on special teams, White remains a starter on kickoff, kickoff return and punt return in addition to playing 25-35 snaps a game at receiver.
"We're getting our money's worth out of him," Mason said.
White served as a split end in an overwhelmingly run-heavy formation last season. Now, he is used as liberally as any other receiver.
"I just wanted to see how he reacted when he got back on the field," Mason said of White's solid spring. "His reaction has been good and because of that we feel confident putting him out there in any situation.
"He is one of the better (route-runners) and he understands how to move the DB, how to work and he understands leverages," Mason said. "He has a pretty good plan when he goes out and runs the routes. He knows what he wants to get done, knows how to do it…And when you can do that you are going to be open and you don't have to make a lot of circus catches."
White has caught a pass in the Badgers' last four games.
"He's making some plays for us on most Saturdays," Mason said. "We need him to continue to do that. We're real happy with the progress he's made to this point."
White grows into role
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