Utah football: John White ready, able to carry Utes again
Utah senior running back John White nods in the direction of the other backs on Utah's practice field and admits it's going to be nice to have a little help in 2012.
"It's going to be different," he said.
Different, but probably more of the same.
White, who joined the Utes from L.A. Harbor College last year, was the workhorse of Utah's one-dimensional offense when quarterback Jordan Wynn suffered his season-ending shoulder injury.
White rushed for 1,519 yards on 316 carries a game to earn second-team all-Pac 12 honors. His consistent productivity became somewhat of a running joke, with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham saying after almost every game that the Utes shouldn't have gone to him as much as they did.
Then, the next game, White would go out and rush for big numbers again. He had eight 100-yard games and rushed 35 times against Oregon State, 36 times against Pitt and 42 times against Washington State.
By the end of the year even Whittingham was acknowledging what everyone could see White could handle as many carries as the Utes needed out of him.
"It seemed like he would get stronger as the games went on, not less so," Whittingham said.
Despite White's durability, the Utes don't want to force him into another record-breaking season when it comes to carries.
He is firmly entrenched as the starter, but backups Kelvin York and Jarrell Oliver should see playing time too.
"We don't want to have to rely on him like we did," Whittingham said. "We know that we can, but we have others this year we want to utilize."
White, a soft-spoken, always grinning product of Torrance, Calif., said he welcomes the additional running backs and the versatility Wynn offers.
"People are going to have to watch Jordan on the pass and respect the run," he said. "It's going to be a lot different this year."
Boosting the run game is that White and York are different types of runners. The 5-foot-8, 188-pound White is a "darter" in the words of Whittingham, while the 5-foot-11, 223-pound York is more of a downhill runner.
"We're going to be very dangerous," White said. "People are going to have to wonder if we are going to juke or run them over."
White didn't spend the offseason kicking back, gloating over all his achievements last year. He has worked on his running technique as well as his receiving. White had 14 catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns last year, but the Utes want to throw to their backs more.
The original plan was to have Harvey Langi fill that role. But with Langi going on a church mission, White and the other backs, plus H-back Dallin Rogers, will have more of a presence in the passing game.
White and the rest of the backs have all been working with former Ute running back Quinton Ganther to improve their catching skills.
"People are going to have to keep an eye on the running back this year," White said. "I might fake that zone and go out on a route and have the linebacker stuck in the backfield. There are a lot of things that we can do."
Whittingham has harped on the need for versatility in the offense this season and the need for more go-to players noting the Utes otherwise can't be effective as they want.
White though, maintains he can repeat his showing in 2012 if necessary, with a few new wrinkles thrown in.
"I could go right now," he said. "There is no pressure. The team trusts me."
White's 2011 highlights
• Set single-season record by rushing for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011.
• Led Pac-12 with 316 carries and second in league averaging 116.8 yards a game.
• Had five of the top 20 rushing games in the conference.
• 205 yards against Oregon State was the ninth-best performance in school history.
• 42 carries against Washington State was tied for the second-most in the country.