Tom Smart, Deseret News archives
SALT LAKE CITY — Aside from a bandage on his forehead, Utah running back John White IV was none the worse for wear after carrying the ball 42 times in last Saturday's 30-27 overtime win at Washington State.
"I'm fine," White said after Tuesday's practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Indeed. The junior college transfer is doing quite well, thank you, in his first season with the Utes. He enters Friday's home-finale against Colorado on the verge of breaking a couple of high-profile school records — the late Carl Monroe's single-season rushing mark of 1,507 yards and Marty Johnson's 14 rushing touchdowns in a season. White is 131 yards shy of Monroe's 1982 record and needs just one score on the ground to surpass Johnson's 2004 success. He is only 19 yards shy of passing Dameon Hunter for second all-time (1,396 to 1,377) in rushing yards for a season.
"It'll mean a lot to make a mark my first season here," White said. "It just means a lot to me and my family and my team."
The junior college transfer from Torrance, Calif., who is just 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds, is standing tall in the Pac-12. He's currently second, averaging just over 125 yards per game.
Over Utah's current four-game winning streak, White is netting 166.7 yards per outing.
"Well, we certainly believe he's one of the best running backs in the Pac-12 Conference," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "... Without John White this season, it would have been a whole different ballgame. We're very fortunate he's on our football team and has played the way he has."
White's emergence has helped the Utes offset the loss of starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury earlier in the season. His workload includes 27 or more carries in five of the past six games.
"He's just a tough guy and he gets stronger as the game goes on," said quarterback Jon Hays, who stepped in for Wynn in the second half against Washington on Sept. 22. "He wears people down with all his cuts and he runs the ball hard."
White has averaged better than four yards per carry in consecutive victories over Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA and Washington State.
"The thing that's amazing is in the fourth quarter he's running stronger and more physically than in the first quarter," Whittingham said. "He doesn't wear down. He wears other people out and that's unique for a back that size."
Whittingham added that White has "endless energy" that must be in his genetic code or something. Everything he does is done at full speed and the right way.
"The kid's a freak. I mean the guy is just a ball of energy. I don't where he gets it from. I don't know where it comes from. But he's never tired," said left tackle John Cullen. "He doesn't get tired. He's never tired on the bus or plane ride home. He has that same smile on his face all the time. The kid's always got energy. It's great. He's just one of those special players."
Although somewhat small in stature, White has what Whittingham considers excellent weight-room strength. White, he noted, is put together well — saying it's all blood, bone and muscle on his frame.
Putting White's name in the record book is something the entire team is taking pride in and working hard to accomplish.
"That's huge. We've talked about it in meetings," Cullen said. "We know the magic number we've got to get to and that's what we're fighting for.
"It's a team thing and White readily acknowledges the hard work from those around him."
So does Whittingham, who praised the offensive line, receiving corps and fullback Shawn Asiata for doing a great job of blocking for White.
Everybody, he continued, will be part of the rushing record.
"There's a lot of help that he's getting from everybody to make this happen," Whittingham said. "That would be a great honor if he's able to get that. We'll just have to see how it plays out."
Utah single-season rushing leaders
No. 1: Carl Monroe (1982)
No. 2: Dameon Hunter (2001)
No. 3: John White IV (2011)
Utes on the air
Colorado (2-10, 1-7 Pac-12) at Utah (7-4, 4-4)
Friday, 1:30 p.m.
TV: ROOT Radio: 700 AM
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