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October 4, 2010MADISON - To say James White is riding a hot streak over the past two games would likely be tabbed an understatement.
The true freshman has rushed for 243 yards over the past two games with an 11.5-yards-per-carry average. He has also found pay dirt six times which ties John Clay for the team lead.
The coaches have noticed.
"It jumped out to you right away on film Sunday," UW head coach Bret Bielema said at his Monday presser. "Probably a bystander watching the game that doesn't know anything about Wisconsin, he's a guy that's gotten better every game. He's a guy that football-sense wise, he really, really gets it. Because of those plays he made, I don't think there is a back in our program that, on those two specific plays would have had those same results.
"He merits getting more playing time."
Talking about White's two rushing scores - one, where the freshman cut back and rushed to the wide side of the field for a touchdown and the other where he took a sweep for a score untouched - Bielema feels White's big playmaking abilities is something that warrants more time on the field.
"James has popped out every time he's touched the ball," Bielema said. "If you saw the big picture, that play against Arizona State where he spun, he knew that the guy was going to try to get outside leverage. He saw him lower his head at the last minute which meant he was going to try to make a blind tackle.
"He just spun and made a very, very good football play."
The coaching staff aren't the only people taking note of White's play so far this season. The Big Ten Conference also tabbed him the league's freshman of the week for the second consecutive week.
With such a dynamic threat emerging, Bielema is excited about his top two tailbacks in White and Clay.
"I'm excited because I really do believe, just because I know what John Clay can do, we probably have two and the best running back combination I've been around," Bielema said. "I've been around some pretty good backs.
"And it's not like you can't throw Montee Ball out and gets some good things as well."
For what it's worth, White is still slashed ahead of Ball as the second string back on the depth chart.
During the game Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, it just didn't seem as though UW junior wide receiver Nick Toon was at 100 percent. If it wasn't that, it seemed as though he was struggling to knock the rust off.
Bielema was asked whether Toon was fully healthy during his presser.
"Nick actually practiced pretty well Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," Bielema said. "When you're in a position that Nick plays, you're in the spotlight. You're a guy that either catches the ball or you don't. You either perform or you don't. Bottom line, especially on Sunday after watching film, there was some things that could have been better on his end.
"I think it's just a part of a growing process that he's going forward."
While Toon didn't look like his normal self, it was also apparent that David Gilreath was not fully incorporated into the gameplan.
At his Monday presser, Bielema acknowledged as much.
"Last week David got limited role offensively," Bielema said. "By the way certain guys played I don't know if they were in it full go or 100 percent ready to be in it at the game speed we need.
"Hopefully we'll move forward this week."
-Bielema mentioned tight end Brian Wozniak, who injured his shoulder in fall camp, has been cleared to participate. Backup quarterback Curt Phillips has also been cleared after suffering a torn ACL in spring camp.
The Dantonio factor:
After the game several Michigan State assistant coaches admitted to having contact with head coach Mark Dantonio during the game. Dantonio, who was being treated for a blood clot in his leg at a local hospital, was not inside the stadium.
According to NCAA rules, coaches are not allowed to have voice contact with anybody outside the stadium. There is another rule, however, that coaches' headsets or phones do not apply to the rule.
Bielema was asked whether the issue was being pursued from UW's standpoint at the presser.
"That has been brought to my attention outside of anything I've brought to it," Bielema said. "When they changed the policy in regards to instant replay I actually wanted to know if we could get feedback from people outside the stadium whether or not to review a play. So I inquired at the time and that's how I knew you couldn't receive or give phone calls or text messages.
"That's not being pursued from our angle."
To some, it was interesting to see Bill Nagy lining up as a jumbo tight end during phases of the game at Michigan State. With Kevin Zeitler returning to his starting post at right guard, it seems Nagy may have to see the field as a tight end.
"We weren't sure what role we were going to have Jake Byrne on Saturday," Bielema said. "Jake is back to full status and actually practiced yesterday afternoon because he didn't get any reps on Saturday. Then also Brian Wozniak is getting back in.
"The thing Billy brings is he brings a big body at that position that should be able to help us with certain aspects of the run game."
Falling down the ranks:
Not only did Wisconsin fall from the ranks of the unbeaten with its loss to Michigan State, it also took a hit in the rankings.
In the Associated Press poll, Wisconsin fell from No. 11 to No. 20. In the Coaches Poll, the Badgers dropped from No. 9 to No. 19.
UW hosts unranked Minnesota Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium. The homecoming kickoff is set for 11:00 A.M.
The following is the audio file from Bielema's presser.
Below is a video featuring highlights from Bielema's presser: