October 3, 2010

White's performance a bright spot in loss

MADISON - Bret Bielema basically dodged the question after Wisconsin's 34-24 loss at Michigan State late Saturday afternoon.

James White had just compiled another multi-touchdown game and led the team in rushing for the second consecutive week with 98 yards on 10 carries. John Clay, meanwhile, rushed for 80 yards on 18 carries.

White had a 9.8 yard-per-carry average and was one of the few bright spots in a rather ominous day spent in East Lansing.

Clay, though not bad, had a 4.7-yard-per-carry average.

So after rushing for 243 yards on only 21 carries, scoring six touchdowns and averaging more than 11.5 yards-per-carry over the past two games, does White deserve more playing time?

"I don't know what the rep count was," Bielema said following the loss. "But today we went into the game and thought it was going to be John and James. Montee Ball came in their actually nice in the first half and made a nice run to give us a first down.

"So again, with those three guys, you kind of go with what makes them all good."

Nobody within the program or people covering the team is calling for Clay's removal at the running back position. Instead, they are clamoring for more of the versatility and big play potential of White.

It's not like Clay has been bad.

Through five games, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year has rushed for a the most yards of any running back in the league with 581 yards. Only Michigan's stud quarterback Denard Robinson (905 yards) has rushed for more.

Clay is also averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry, fifth best in the league, and has found the end zone on six separate occasions.

The junior tailback is producing.

It's just that the freshman tailback White, who has seen less than half the carries Clay has, ranks ninth in the league with 367 rushing yards and second with an 8.3-yards-per-carry mark, only behind Robinson's ridiculous 9.2-yards-per-carry average.

He is explosive and he is gaining confidence on a weekly basis.

"I always try to keep my confidence no matter who we're playing," White said. "If the team we're playing is very good or if they aren't playing well I just try to go out there and give it all I have.

"That's why I'm so successful sometimes."

And up until Saturday's loss to Michigan State, UW's two-thronged attack was successful for the Badgers. But it was in that game that many started to question whether White was deserving of more reps.

Clay, who said he was nicked up in the first quarter of that ball game, managed to muster a 4.7-yard-per-carry average en route to rushing for 80 yards in the contest. That 4.7 number, though considered above average for most, was a bit lower than Clay's standards.

Couple that with White's explosiveness, including two touchdown bursts of 16 and 34 yards, and the running back distribution may be something worth watching in upcoming weeks.

And that doesn't even include sophomore Montee Ball, who received only two carries against Michigan State. Where does he fit in?

Is it starting to become a two-headed monster instead of the three-headed one many expected to see as a result of the production in fall camp? The easy answer is that those two compliment each other very well.

"If we're able to convert and do a couple of other things, it's exactly what you want," Bielema said in reference to Clay's and White's respective skill sets. "But the bottom line is this one is going to go down as a defeat.

"It's hard to take positives out of it in a general sense like that."

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