MonTAY’s Gone, Montee’s Back for Badgers

Ball_vs._Purdue_2.jpegAfter rattling off another 150 yard or more performance many in Badger Nation have been saying that it's nice to see the old Montee Ball back, as it turns out it's more than just his on the field performance that's back as well. 

Gone is the Mon-TAY Ball we knew for such a short time as he confirmed he's back to being Montee again following the victory over Minnesota on Saturday and perhaps that's as great an indication of the transformation Ball has made as a leader on and off the field. Something has clearly changed and it's something head coach Bret Bielema addressed on Monday.

"No, I didn't want to go public on that one, and a couple of my coaches on the sideline told me, hey, Montay's gone, but Montee's back. I think Montee has done some things differently. He'd be the first to tell you he's done some things away from the field."

What has changed with him off the field though? Apparently he's been coming in to work with the developmental group early in the morning during the week, lifting earlier and changing his mental approach to things. Those changes have shown on the field according to Bielema.

"You're really starting to see him get some of those signature broken tackles that you see him do, where he side steps a guy or runs through a guy," said Bielema on Monday. "He popped a guy pretty well where he lowered his shoulder, and you could see the nastiness come back."

For many that single play against Purdue was the one sign that the Montee Ball we knew from last season was back and if you don't remember that play, go to the 40 second mark in this video for what we're talking about.

Ball's transition has really shown through in conference play. Currently he leads the Big Ten in rushing with 622 yards and has a conference best 10 touchdowns in those four games.

Ball has been so dominate in conference play that he leads the 2nd best running back – Venric Mark of Northwestern by nearly 200 yards and has 3 more touchdowns than Carlos Hyde who's 2nd with 7 TD's in conference play.

Having said all of that backup James White hasn't been a slouch either, rushing for 366 yards and averaging a conference best 8.8 yards per carry in Big Ten games.

Those numbers have led some to speculate that there could be issues with carries and between the two competitors, but according to Bielema that's the furthest thing from what these two are like.

"They're both unselfish kids," Bielema said. "They were that way when they got here. If it was any type of animosity or ill will, it would lead to something. They share an apartment together. Any time you're sharing living quarters or living arrangements, it's a pretty positive thing."

Perhaps the change in Ball can be attributed to the push he has been getting from James White who leads the team in rushing average at 6.9 yards a carry and has 6 touchdowns? 

Credit should go to White for pushing Ball, but also to what's been happening around the running backs as a whole.

Wisconsin has really turned around the offensive line issues that plagued them in the first two weeks of the season and in the 12 days of practice available to this team they've clearly made a huge jump under the leadership of Bart Miller.

No matter what sparked the change in and around Montee Ball his fellow teammates, coaches, and Badger nation certainly are grateful to see Montee back to his normal self.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college football for nearly half a decade. He is the Managing Editor of and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site,