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Utah football: Despite smallish size, John White IV provides big effort for Utes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah running back John White IV isn't the biggest guy on the football field. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, the junior running back is somewhat lacking in stature.

That, however, doesn't mean he isn't capable of carrying the load if needed.

Such was the case last Saturday at Pittsburgh, where blustery conditions made it difficult to effectively throw the ball at Heinz Field.

White wound up carrying the ball 36 times for 171 yards in Utah's 26-14 win over the Panthers. The workload was the third-largest in team history, equaling former Utes Carl Monroe (1982 vs. UNLV) and Brandon Warfield (2003 vs. Texas A&M). That duo also hold the top two spots, respectively.

Monroe holds the record with 45 carries against UTEP in 1982, while Warfield is second with 40 against BYU in 2002.

"Wow," White said when told his number of rushes last weekend was among the most ever by a Ute. "I'm pretty sure I'm the smallest guy to carry it, though."

Almost. White is a little smaller than Warfield was, but is a tad heavier than Monroe was back in the day.

White, however, is standing tall for the Utes these days.

"He's great. I mean it's unbelievable how durable he is," said Utah quarterback Jon Hays. "He's not very big but he's a tough guy and he runs hard. It's great to have a back like him."

White, who signed with the Utes after a record-setting career at Los Angeles Harbor College, has netted 671 yards on the ground this season. He's averaging 111.8 yards per game, ranking third in the Pac-12 and 16th in the nation.

Carrying the ball 36 times in a game, however, won't become the norm. It was a necessity last week because the weather made if difficult to pass the ball.

That many carries, Whittingham acknowledged, is not a week-to-week plan for White.

"But he's a tough kid. He wants the ball in his hands. It was the thing to do on Saturday with the wind conditions what they were," Whittingham said. "That was the best thing that we could have done and he handled it well. But you've got to be smart about it. You can't overwork a back or bad things happen."

In Utah's first five games this season, White has averaged 18.4 carries per outing.

"If we give the ball to John White 36 times a game, I don't think it's going to be a long season for him. That's too many times for any back to carry the ball on a week-to-week basis," Whittingham noted.

"Now he's as tough as nails and he wants the ball. He would love to have the ball that many times, but the reality is that's probably too big of a workload for him."

As Utah prepares to open the second half of the season Saturday against California at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Whittingham said the throw game has to become more efficient and effective in order to take pressure off of White.

Pressure? What pressure?

"I'm down for whatever," White said. "If they want me to carry the load, I'll do it."

At California's South Torrance High School, he recalls carrying the ball 50 times and rushing for "like 360 yards or something" against rival North Torrance.

White, thus, doesn't mind a large workload. He readily accepts any opportunity to make a big play, get an extra yard or pick up a first down.

"If they put the ball in my hands, I know they trust me," White said.

And truth be told, he actually felt it a little bit (in the form of a few bumps and bruises) after carrying the ball 36 times in a major college football game.

"My body is weird. I really don't get banged up too much, I mean, as small as my stature is," White said. "But I'll tell you this, I did feel something the next day and the day of, but on Monday I was fine."

Now he's ready to do it again.

"I'm down for whatever," White said. "... If they want me to carry the load, you know, I'll do it."

Utah football: Most carries in a game

45 — Carl Monroe (215 yards vs. UTEP, 1982)

40 — Brandon Warfield (194 yards vs. BYU, 2002)

36 — Brandon Warfield (181 yards vs. Texas A&M, 2003)

36 — JOHN WHITE (171 yards vs. Pittsburgh, 2011)

36 — Carl Monroe (160 yards vs. UNLV, 1982)

Utes on the air

Utah (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) at California (3-3, 0-3)

Saturday, 5 p.m. MT

AT&T Park, San Francisco

TV: KJZZ Radio: 700 AM


Twitter: @DirkFacer