Bill Lund

White Or Hyde: Best Draftable Back In The Big Ten?

Created on Jul. 12, 2013 1:07 PM EST

From Heisman Trophy winners Alan Ameche (Wisconsin) to Archie Griffin (Ohio State), from Eddie George (Ohio State) to Ron Dayne (Wisconsin), the running back position has a long and distinguished history for both the Buckeyes and the Badgers. Ohio State boasts four Heisman-winning running backs while Wisconsin has had two of their own.

Since the 2000 season, 11 Wisconsin backs have rushed for 1,000 yards (second-most in the FBS), while the Buckeyes have had seven 1,000-yard rushers (tied for seventh).

Going into the 2013 Big Ten season, the running backs for the Badgers and Buckeyes could be the decisive factor in who plays in the conference title game. For Wisconsin, Gary Anderson will begin his first season at the helm, and even with the change in offensive philosophy, the Badgers' focus remains on having a great ground attack. Urban Meyer will begin his second season with Ohio State and will look to get the Buckeyes back into the title hunt with his spread rushing attack after a year on probation.

Wisconsin’s main weapon will be James White, a senior who has amassed 2,571 yards and 32 touchdowns in three seasons as Montee Ball's backup. Ohio State’s attack features Carlos Hyde, a bruising back who pounded his way to 970 yards and 16 TDs in his first season in Meyer's system. Each back has different skills that allow them to excel in their respective team’s scheme, but which one of these players will be the best pro prospect as we look ahead to the 2014 draft?

James White, Wisconsin

White, at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds, is not the biggest back the Badgers have produced, but he could be the most athletic. He has yet to play as an every-down back and will likely share carries with Melvin Gordon.

Regardless, White has shown the versatility NFL scouts love in a running back. Last year, with White splitting time with Ball (the second round pick of the Denver Broncos), the Badgers staff found other ways to utilize him. He would be split out wide on occasion and was used on reverses. Even as a pass catcher, he averaged 10.9 yards over his 34 receptions.

White displays incredible body control, allowing him to change direction on a dime. He shows good vision and patience in allowing the linemen to get to their blocks, which had been a question mark in his game. What makes White more dangerous than his predecessor is he is faster. He has the speed to break away from secondary defenders once he gets into the open field. White’s explosiveness is evident in his career average of more than 6 yards per carry. His best game during the 2012 season was his 15-carry, 175-yard performance against Minnesota. 

With Anderson having a run-first mentality, the new version of the Badgers' Ground and Pound 3.0 could prove ultra-productive for the explosive White.

Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

Hyde is a well-built 6-foot, 240-pound bowling ball of a back. He is an inside runner with a big lower body and nimble feet. He shows vision in finding the hole and enough burst to get through. A physical runner in the open field,  Hyde would just as soon run over you than around you.

His stock in the 2014 draft may depend on what he can do in the 40-yard dash when the combine rolls around. He has solid speed but not enough to break away in the open field.

He is limited as a receiver within the Ohio State offensive scheme, so how much versatility he truly has is a mystery.  He made strides in Meyer’s spread attack, increasing his touchdown production by 10 from his sophomore to junior seasons. He has the build to handle the more demanding load of the NFL, but he did have a knee injury that kept him out of two games during the 2012 season.

Who is the better draft prospect?

At this point, White is the better prospect overall. His speed and explosiveness are characteristics teams covet, and his versatility allows him to be utilized creatively by NFL coordinators. These two featured backs don’t have a lot of wear and tear since they were not full-time starters until late in their college careers. There will be questions about White’s size and durability and assumptions that Hyde is durable because of his size. In either case, production will be key, and White having the edge in explosive runs and receptions is a clear advantage.  Hyde will have a stage to show NFL teams his value, but NFL execs want versatility and explosive ability, two traits that will be highlighted in Wisconsin's newly implemented offensive attack for White.

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