IOWA CITY, Ia. Instead of trying to stop James White this week, Iowa might have been finding ways to use him as a weapon against Wisconsin.
The Hawkeyes were in the thick of the race for the Badger true freshman's services last fall. They pulled his scholarship offer after receiving a verbal commitment from fellow Florida product DeAndre Johnson. D.C.'s Marcus Coker already had pledged to Iowa.
Johnson and White visited on the same weekend last year. Iowa informed both that they were going to take one more back in addition to Coker. Johnson accepted the scholarship the week after their trip to Iowa City.
"We had good feelings about both players," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "DeAndre was probably ready to make a decision faster than James. They're both good young men and good players."
Ferentz said he and his staff ranked White and Johnson equally after their evaluation. It came down to the first guy who said yes.
"If they're in that same category, then yeah (it's a first-come, first-serve proposition," Ferentz said.
I remember talking with White during that time. He was disappointed because he liked Iowa a lot. He just wasn't ready to make his decision as quickly as was Johnson.
White has burst onto the scene with 560 yards and nine touchdowns on 80 carries as a true freshman. The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder has returned 15 kicks for 283 yards and caught seven passes for another 64.
White hails from the same high school - Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas - as Iowa's 2011 quarterback commitment, Jacob Rudock, who had Wisconsin second on his list. Johnson suffered an ACL injury before his final prep campaign at Monsignor Pace. Some schools backed off of him, but the Hawkeyes stayed with him.
There was no telling if White would have picked Iowa had time allowed for it. He talked glowingly about the Hawkeyes, Badgers and also N.C. State. Several of his former prep teammates also were on the Wisconsin team and encouraging him to join them.
Things turned out the way they did but conceivably could have gone another way. Had Coker or Johnson gone in a different direction, maybe White chooses Iowa given more time.
"It's one of the things that can happen," Ferentz said of decisions being the product of timing.
White is splitting carries with reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, John Clay, in Madison. They're the only duo in the country to each average at least 80.0 rushing yards a game and their combined 1,356 yards is the best nationally for a running back tandem.