Utah's White: Under The Radar
By Jackson Long
So far this season, the statistical leaders in rushing from BCS conferences reads as a list of big-name tailbacks from top-tier teams: David Wilson from Virginia Tech, Montee Ball from Wisconsin, LaMichael James of Oregon and Alabama's Trent Richardson.
Next comes relatively unknown John White IV out of Utah. At ninth overall in the nation and fifth among power conferences in rushing, White is a force to be reckoned with. In just 11 games this season, White has racked up 1,456 yards (125.2 average) on the ground and 14 rushing scores.
At only 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, White, in his first year of Division-I football, has become not only Utah's best player, but one of the top backs in all of college football.
Unlike the aforementioned leading backs in the nation, White was virtually unknown before the start of the 2011 season to even the biggest college football fans. And even after the stellar year he has had so far, White remains under the radar of most casual college fans.
Coming out of high school White was recruited by Oregon and Syracuse, but due to academic issues, White attended a junior college where he reassessed his involvement with football.
"I did consider quitting after high school. I just wanted to be a regular person and get a job and go to school," said White. "But I thought about my parents and getting into a better college and I thought football could get me there."
During his two years at Los Angeles Harbor College, White set all sorts of school records. He accumulated 3,767 total yards and 41 scores and became a top prospect in the junior college recruiting realm.
"I improved a lot at (junior college), just showing my talent on the field," White said. "I went hard every play."
Near the end of his time in junior college, White received offers from premier programs like Cincinnati, Houston, Ole Miss, Purdue, California and Utah.
"I was recruited by a lot of good schools, but Utah is in the west, they are Pac-12 and my family would be able to see me play more," said White. "Utah was always here and always wanted me. I felt they respected me more."
When White arrived at Utah he was by no means slated to be the starting tailback. But midway through fall training camp it was evident that Utah had acquired a special talent in White.
"I didn't expect to start. Most of the time schools bring in a (junior college) guy and they expect him to make a difference right away, but it really wasn't like that with me," White said. "I had to really work for it and I wanted to work hard because I was determined to get the starting spot. In fall camp I really exploded and tried to separate myself from other players."
Upon being tagged the starter for the Utes, White made quite the first impression on the field. In Utah's season opener, White accounted for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn't looked back since.
In the 11 games he has played for the Utes, White has rushed for over 100 yards in seven of them, one of which was a 205-yard performance against Oregon State.
White was also instrumental in Utah's rivalry win over BYU, a game in which White rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns.
"The BYU game was special because of the feeling in the locker and I had never felt like that before," White said.
White's dream season is exactly that to him. He said that he "has gotten all the right opportunities" on his way to the top of the statistical charts and into the conversation of America's top rushers.
"I really never knew I could make it this far," he said. "Football is just fun."