James White doesn't want to be labeled as a speed back.
The University of Wisconsin freshman is well on his way to establishing himself as somebody who does more than just run fast.
"I don't feel I'm a speed back," White said. "Maybe some people think I am. I feel like I can do each thing. I can get around the corner and I can lower my shoulder. I feel like I'm balanced."
Still, the first thing most people notice about White is he's fast. While the Badgers have had a lot of success running the ball with power backs, some fans have been longing for more big-play potential in the backfield.
White, 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, certainly provides that, as he showed again during a scrimmage on a steamy Saturday afternoon inside Camp Randall Stadium. On a day when the offense had to work hard for most of its yards, White had three runs of more than 20 yards.
"That's why we're so excited as an offensive staff," running backs coach John Settle said. "We feel we have three guys who can really come in and put pressure on a defense. You've got two big bodies (255-pound John Clay and 236-pound Montee Ball) who can pound people and if you're not careful, we'll put (White) in the game.
"If you think he's small, all of a sudden he pounds you. Just when you think you've got him, he side-steps you and he's gone for 40 or 50 yards. He brings a different dimension, something we haven't had since I've been here."
The problem now - and it's a nice one for Settle to have - is finding a role for White in the Badgers' crowded backfield.
"We've always said, we play production, guys that produce," Settle said. "Guys that show they can do things to help us win a ballgame, we're going to find ways to get them on the field."
That would include White, who comes from the prep powerhouse program St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"From the first day he took the field, he felt like he belonged," Settle said.
White showed his strength, breaking a tackle on a 29-yard run with the second offense against the second defense.
Later, running for the second offense against the No. 1 defense, he showed his burst, going around left end, then exploding up the middle for 26 yards in a situation where the offense starts near its own goal line.
He followed that up with a 22-yard touchdown run around end for the No. 1 offense, against the No. 2 defense, brushing off safety Dezmen Southward's tackle attempt on the sidelines.
"Every time you put the film on, he does something to let you know he has an opportunity to be special," Settle said.
But the thing that gives White the chance to play early is his preparation.
"Whatever you cover in a meeting, whatever you install, he studies it, he wants to do it just like you coach it to be done," Settle said. "You turn the film on, he's usually the guy you would show as an example."
Probably the fastest way for White to get on the field is as a third-down back. While he has dropped a couple of balls recently, he catches the ball naturally and his hands are good enough he is working as a backup kickoff and punt returner.
Ball has the edge over White as the third-down back, but Settle said he is anxious to grade the film from the scrimmage.
"Right now, you probably give Montee a nod because he does have a little more knowledge of what's going on," Settle said. "But I tell you, the gap's closing quickly."
Clay unofficially had 11 carries for 51 yards. The coaches tried to put him in a variety of situations as he continues to work the rust off after offseason surgery on both ankles. At one point, defensive end J.J. Watt tackled him from behind, causing Clay to bend back awkwardly at the knees.
"We let him get hit, we wanted some people to get down around his ankles," Settle said. "For him to feel, ‘I can come back from that.'
"We put him back in there and let him get tired. We wanted him to be able to run fatigued a little bit, so when we hit UNLV (Sept. 4), it's not his first time in a ballgame getting winded. ... (Clay) had a good day's work and I like what I saw."
Even freshman running back Jeff Lewis (6-2, 214), from Brookfield Central, ran hard at the end, during the portion devoted to young players, making the position appear even deeper.
"The guys were joking, right now, no matter whose hands you put the ball in, the guy is going to gain yards," Settle said.