James White is going to leave Madison under-appreciated, and that's a shame. Because he's a great running back. You'd figure there's probably 110 or so teams that would have him start for them. It just so happens the Badgers have had two of their best backs in the modern era emerge while White was playing.
So maybe he'll leave Madison with less wistful memories and rending of garments than the inevitable exit of Melvin Gordon. But here's the thing: White's going to stick on an NFL roster next year. In fact, he might have a chance to be the best Badger running back to hit the NFL in the modern era.
Am I serious? Completely. I'll give you four reasons as to why.
1. You pass block, you play quickly
One of the reasons why Montee Ball has faded into the background in Denver is because Denver has Peyton Manning. I'm not saying that if Josh Freeman was Denver's quarterback, Ball would be getting all the run. But the fact of the matter is that when a rookie running back doesn't win the time share or finds himself in the doghouse and you have no idea why, pass blocking is usually the culprit.
White doesn't seem to have that problem. So whichever team drafts him, especially if it's not a team with an old-school jerk running things, is going to give White an opportunity. And White can definitely do something with it.
2. He's a good athlete with not a lot of tread on his tires
One of the things we know from the Alvarez and Bielema eras is the fact that they would choose a guy and run him into the ground. Guys like Anthony Davis, Brent Moss, Brian Calhoun, P.J. Hill, Ron Dayne and Ball all had years of 30+ carries. Now the jury is out on young mister Ball. But Calhoun disappeared quickly; Davis, Moss and Hill were never much in the pros. and while Dayne lasted, he was a disappointment, and reminding a Giants fan they could have had Shaun Alexander instead is hilarious.
White has 530 carries over four seasons. Now he'll probably end up with around 630 by the time it ends. And this year will be the year where he'll have his most carries. This means that the skill set he provides isn't as likely going to be limited by injury. This means he can last.
3. His non-blocking skill set translates
White's such a good pass catcher. But you know that. Why he's going to do some things in the NFL is based on the fact that he has the quickness, good pound-for-pound strength and odds are that we're going to find out his 40-time is sub-4.5. And outside of being somewhat lost in the shuffle during the Russell Wilson season, he's been consistently above 6 yards per carry. He's a good runner. He's a very good runner.
4. The sad fact of Badger football history
In the summer, Jake Kocorowski wrote a series on the history of the Badger running backs in the pros. And if you didn't read it? First of all, why? Second of all, the fact of the matter is that the history is pretty bleak. Michael Bennett had one great year in the NFL and he was the best running back from the Badgers. And the sad fact was, it was pretty clear.
Ball can do a lot to change this narrative in upcoming seasons, but the fact remains White has a shot to surprise a lot of people in the next few seasons. And he has a pretty low bar to clear to do it.
Even if he might not hold on to it for long.
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- Has Melvin Gordon emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate?
- Kielbasa Kings Episode 16: Wisconsin vs. Illinois review
- Wisconsin offensive review: Melvin Gordon, James White run wild on Illinois
- Wisconsin defense review: Despite Chris Borland injury, Badgers' defense holds
- Badgers in the NFL: Week 7
- Film study: What the hell happened at Boston College Friday night?