A down-to-earth approach helped James White climb the Wisconsin depth chart.
He joined the Badgers football program as a highly-touted freshman tailback, but never banked on making a sudden impact.
“I just knew when I came to camp I was going to have to work hard if I wanted to play,” White said. “That’s what I did, and now I’m here having success.”
White enters Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Iowa averaging 7 yards per carry, with nine touchdowns.
When his talents are blended with senior John Clay, it gives Wisconsin one of the most diverse rushing attacks in the Big Ten Conference.
“John Clay is more of the bigger, physical guy,” Hawkeye linebacker Troy Johnson said. “(White) comes in and he’s a little more shifty.
“We’re going to have to make sure we don’t let him out of the gate.”
White was recruited by Iowa – and said this week the Hawkeyes were among his final five schools – but eventually accepted a scholarship offer from Badgers coach Bret Bielema.
“The skill set he brings to the table, compared to John, is a little bit different,’ Bielema said. “There’s a change in the speed of the game when he hops in there.”
Wisconsin is one of two NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams to feature two running backs averaging more than 80 yards a game (along with Michigan State’s Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell).
Clay and White’s combined total of 1,356 rushing yards is more than seven Big Ten teams have posted this season.
“It gives them a nice, effective changeup and they’ve really used it well,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s been good for them.”
The Hawkeyes have beaten Wisconsin the past two seasons, holding Clay under 90 yards both times.
“I know it’s been a physical game each and every year,” White said. “Everybody knows each team is very good at running the football and has great offensive lines.”
White’s breakout performance came Sept. 25 against Austin Peay, when he became the second Wisconsin freshman to score four touchdowns in a game – equaling a feat accomplished by 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.
Last week, during the Badgers’ 31-18 upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State, White ran for 75 yards and a touchdown.
He leads Wisconsin with 907 all-purpose yards, including 283 as a kick returner and 64 as a receiver.
Iowa is the Big Ten leader in rushing defense, allowing 83.8 yards per game.
“James has the ability to make some people miss,” Bielema said, “but this will be the toughest challenge to this point.”
OF NOTE: Bielema, a former Iowa player and assistant, owns a 44-15 record, which is second best among the 11 coaches hired before the 2006 season. Only Chris Peterson of Boise State (55-4) is better.
* Wisconsin leads the nation in fewest penalties per game, averaging 3.3. The Badgers’ 31.4 penalty yards is fourth-lowest in the country.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football