Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah senior John White isn't resting on his laurels. Despite being the incumbent with the strongest resume, he's not taking anything for granted in his bid to remain the Utes' top running back.
"I'm still trying to earn the job," White said. "I'm thirsting right now, that's my mindset. I'm just going to keep working hard and do everything I can."
White carried quite the load in 2011. The junior college transfer was responsible for 85 percent of Utah's 1,789 net rushing yards and 67 percent of the team's 472 rushing attempts.
"John White is a tough kid and he wants the ball," said Utah running backs coach Jay Hill. "So he'll take it as much as you give it to him."
White's 316 carries topped the Pac-12 last year. The 5-foot-8, 188-pound back weathered it well, though, earning all-conference honors after breaking single-season school records with 1,519 yards on the ground and 15 rushing touchdowns.
Now comes the encore and circumstances are different. Utah is building some depth at running back. Besides developing players like sophomore Lucky Radley and redshirt freshman Jarrell Oliver, the position group now includes highly touted junior college transfer Kelvin York. Camp addition James Poole of Saddleback (Calif.) College may offset the LDS Church mission departure of former Bingham High star Harvey Langi.
"I think we've got a bunch of good backs," Hill said, "The future is bright because we've got a bunch of young ones, too."
White and York are the veterans and frontrunners on the depth chart. They give the Utes different styles as well.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that White is more of a darting back, able to start and stop quickly, and change direction on a dime. York, he continued, is more of a pounding back who is good between the tackles.
Whittingham added that both backs have the speed and quickness to get outside the perimeter.
It all adds up to what could be a solid and complimentary one-two combination for the Utes.
York considers it like "thunder and lightning." He's determined to come in and help White, relieve him when he needs a break and help the Utes succeed.
"Anything that helps the team to win," he said, "that's what I'm down for."
The running backs are united in that effort.
"Our relationship is close. All the running backs are close," White said. "We all sit together in the locker room. Kelvin's still learning and we're all still learning. So we're just going to get better every day."
The group, Hill noted, is solid and gives the Utes a lot of weapons to throw at opposing defenses.
"I like all five backs right now," he said. "They're all doing good things and they're all fighting to be that first, second, third, fourth guy."
White is still the leader of the pack, though, and Hill acknowledged that he may still be used extensively if situations dictate.
"But we sure hope that some of those other backs can step up to the plate to the point where they can ease the load for him," Hill explained. "Ideally, we don't have to give him the ball 40 times per game."
UTAH CAMP REPORT
Day 5: The Utes wore full pads for the first time in camp during a two-hour practice Tuesday morning at Ute Field. A double day is scheduled for Wednesday and a scrimmage on Thursday.
Standouts: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that senior running back John White has been "exceptional the last couple of days." Whittingham also praised the backs as a group.
Injuries: Senior offensive tackle Miles Mason (left foot) could be out for 2-3 weeks. Same goes for junior center Vyncent Jones (pulled hamstring). Freshman linebacker Reshawn Hooker is out with a concussion. Junior receiver Anthony Denham (tendonitis) is expected back in the next day or two.
Overheard: "It's great to get back into full gear and play real football." — Whittingham.
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