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WISCONSIN BADGERS
CHRIS MAHR
August 16, 2011
A 1,000-yard rusher is gone, but that's not a concern at run-first Wisconsin, where two other backs are primed to shoulder the load together
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August 16, 2011

Wisconsin Badgers

A 1,000-yard rusher is gone, but that's not a concern at run-first Wisconsin, where two other backs are primed to shoulder the load together

QB

RUSSELL WILSON

JON BUDMAYR

RB

MONTEE BALL

JAMES WHITE

FB

BRADIE EWING

SHERARD CADOGAN

WR

JARED ABBREDERIS

MANASSEH GARNER

WR

NICK TOON*

JEFF DUCKWORTH

TE

JAKE BYRNE*

JACOB PEDERSEN

LT

JOSH OGLESBY

ROB HAVENSTEIN

LG

TRAVIS FREDERICK

RYAN GROY

C

PETER KONZ*

JAKE CURRENT

RG

KEVIN ZEITLER*

DALLAS LEWALLEN

RT

RICKY WAGNER*

ROBERT BURGE

MONTEE BALL AND JAMES WHITE ROSE FROM OBSCURITY LAST season, but their paths to joining one of the country's most dominant backfields were decidedly different.

Ball was admittedly frustrated as the third-string back behind prolific junior John Clay and White during the early part of last year. He questioned his role after not playing in the Badgers' 31--18 upset of then No. 1 Ohio State in mid-October, but the experience became a springboard.

"My family and coaches told me to stay hungry," Ball recalls. "I asked my coaches why I wasn't getting out on the field, and they showed me. I watched more film than I ever had, [and I started] eating right and really looking at the playbook and where the linemen were blocking."

White's journey was smoother. Last season as a true freshman he expected to bide his time before playing and was surprised when, during the season opener against UNLV, then assistant John Settle told him to get in the game. "I didn't realize he was talking to me," says White. "My heart started beating [faster], but I actually had a good first carry."

Ball and White combined for 32 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards last season, and each will have the chance to contribute more this year with Clay (who rushed for 14 touchdowns and 1,012 yards in 2010) gone to try his luck in the pros. The powerful Ball dropped 10 to 12 pounds in an effort to break more shoestring tackles and be lighter on his feet, while the quick White is ready to meet defenders head on and not just run away from them. "I've been going hard in the weight room, squatting to become more of a power back," White says. "Whenever I put on my pants now I notice that my legs have gotten bigger."

Ball's and White's presence will ease the transition for touted senior transfer Russell Wilson, who threw for 76 TDs in three seasons at N.C. State and will take over at quarterback. On defense new co-coordinators Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge preside over a group that must replace its three leading tacklers from a year ago but has seniors Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry back to lead the secondary.

Yet some things don't change: The Badgers, with a chance to repeat as Big Ten champs, will go as far as their powerful running game carries them.

THE VITALS

COACH Bret Bielema (6th year) 49--16 (27--13 in Big Ten)

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