James White and Montee Ball were supposed to be understudies this season for Wisconsin, young running backs waiting their turn behind veteran John Clay.
But as the fifth-ranked Badgers prepare to play third-ranked Texas Christian in the Rose Bowl, Ball and White are on equal footing with their older teammate, who has recovered from a late-season knee injury and will play on New Year's Day.
That will be a challenge for TCU's top-ranked defense, which faces a Wisconsin running back corps at full strength for the first time since early in the season.
It will also be a challenge for Badgers running backs coach John Settle.
"I don't know if you can ever keep them all happy," he said Monday after the Badgers' afternoon practice at the Home Depot Center. "We got into a rhythm this season and were able to move the ball and run a lot of plays."
White, a freshman from Florida, and Ball, a sophomore from Missouri, took full advantage, giving Wisconsin a chance to finish the season with three 1,000-yard rushers.
The 5-foot-10, 198-pound White said he did not know what role, if any, he would have this season. But he got comfortable fast when he broke off an 18-yard run on his first carry in the season opener against Nevada Las Vegas.
"I was really nervous," said White, who has rushed for a team-best 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns. "But after that first run I thought, 'Man, just keep running hard. I guess it won't be as bad as I thought.'"
Ball said White's fast start motivated him to work even harder so as not to lose any carries.
Ball finished the regular season as the starter, rushing for 864 yards and 17 touchdowns. Clay, a fourth-year junior, was sidelined for two-plus games but still rushed for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"Everyone knows our offensive line is great," Ball said, "but we've still got to make the right read and hit the right hole. That's a credit to our coaches for teaching us well."
Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda addressed Wisconsin after practice. Lasorda said it was the fourth time he has spoken to a Wisconsin Rose Bowl team. That could be a good omen for the Badgers, who won in their last three Rose Bowl appearances, in 1994, '99 and 2000.
Odds and ends
Former Miami coach Randy Shannon attended Wisconsin's practice. Wisconsin will be hiring a new defensive coordinator after the Rose Bowl because Dave Doeren, the Badgers' coordinator and linebackers coach, was recently hired as head coach by Northern Illinois. Shannon was Miami's defensive coordinator until being promoted to head coach. He was let go after a 7-5 record this season, 28-22 overall.... TCU did not practice Monday, but will resume workouts Tuesday.