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September 15, 2010MADISON - Spend five minutes with James White and you'll notice the freshman from Florida is anything but lacking in confidence.
It's not a cocky confidence or a sly arrogance, either. In fact, were you to try and rig together a list of topics or events that could shake his confidence, you'd likely induce a laugh from White.
But if there was one thing, fumbling the ball out of the end zone in your second game as a true freshman might be as close to rattling the tailback as you can get.
"It seemed like it because I probably didn't get as much reps after the fumble," White said. "It seemed like I was probably a little out of the game. I didn't lose my confidence because I knew it wasn't just from ball security because I tried to reach the ball out.
"I didn't lose much confidence."
Nor should he because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Throughout fall camp, White did not even come close to approaching the stigma of being labeled a fumbler.
He consistently runs through and around people without suffering any setbacks because he loses control of the ball. Yes, White fumbled in a crucial area and in a place that is simply shouldn't happen, but the fact that he reached for the line left him vulnerable.
It's a teaching point for a player that seems to be teachable.
"I made my move and saw the end zone," White said. "I probably should have just kept running into the end zone. I tried to reach the ball out, but as soon as I made the attempt the guy swiped it right out of my hands.
"I have to try to correct that and stop trying to reach the ball out across the end zone."
Playing in his first collegiate game in a stadium painted red and white, it becomes obvious that a young player may press to make a name for himself that would allow him to fall into the tight graces of 80,000 of his newest friends.
"I was anxious to score that first touchdown," White said. "That's probably another reason why I fumbled. I've got to be patient and it will come."
When White labored over to the sideline, knowing he just committed one of the biggest no-no's one can on the football field (red zone turnover), White caught the attention of his head coach.
With his chin drooped towards the spongy Camp Randall field turf, Bret Bielema issued some talking points that instilled his faith in the talented tailback.
"I walked over and I said, 'James, I don't think you fumbled the ball on purpose,'" Bielema said. "Every day is a lesson for you (during) your freshman year. I kind of pushed his head up, I said, 'I want to see your eyes up the rest of the game.' And he went back in there.
"He made a little bit of an errant cut on a bob play, but he's got so much positive energy in his life. It's going to be a good thing for him in the future."
White insists he has never had a problem fumbling. Not through his days as a youngster on the football field, or through his career at St. Thomas Aquinas. He focuses on fundamentally carrying the ball and believes the lost fumble suffered Saturday was more of the exception, not the rule.
"I've never had problem with fumbling," White said. "I always try to hold the ball high and tight. My coaches at St. Thomas stressed that and coach John Settle stresses that, too."