White Running at Full Speed

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Ankle injuries have sidelined Johnny White for the better part of two years, dating back to his senior season at Asheville (N.C.) High School. But the redshirt freshman has recovered well from offseason right ankle surgery, and is currently entrenched in a fierce battle for the starting tailback spot.

"I feel pretty good," White said. "I feel as good as I've felt in a couple of years, since like my junior year in high school, so I'm pretty confident about the ankle right now.

"I feel like I'm back to 100 percent. It still hurts me a little bit, like it's just sore at times, but it's nothing major."

The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder said the training staff is still cautious with his ankle, taping it and having him wear a brace every day before workouts. White twisted the ankle again post-surgery this summer, but said he recovered quickly before training camp started last week.

White claims he has put the injury out of his mind, and that he is not hesitant in the least during practice drills. That's important, as White is in a spirited competition with fellow redshirt freshmen Anthony Parker-Boyd and Anthony Elzy, as well as sophomore Richie Rich and highly-touted true freshman Ryan Houston.

"It really doesn't seem like a competition, because everyone is just out there helping each other, trying to make each other get better," White said. "Nobody's selfish. We're out there schooling up the younger kids, the freshmen that just came in, and also pointing out mistakes that each other did throughout the practice."

It helps that 14-year UNC coaching veteran Ken Browning has moved back to the offensive side of the ball to coach the running backs for the 2007 season.

"He's a great coach," White said. "He sits you there and he makes sure that when you go out for practice that you know everything that's going on, so you won't go out there without a clue. And he puts everything into detail for you, so the young guys are picking it up pretty good, along with the older guys."

Browning's nine years of experience coaching defensive tackles gives him a different view into what his running backs can expect on the playing field.

"It helps him because he knows some things that defenses do that other coaches on the offensive side might not know about, and he gives us those kinds of hints, and it helps us to enhance our skills better," White said.

White rushed for 5,133 yards to break his high school's 63-year-old record, previously held by legendary North Carolina back Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice. He also rushed for 70 touchdowns during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and while those statistics are still fresh in his mind, for now he's just ready to get back on the playing field.

"I'm real excited, because you know, I haven't really played a game – I haven't sat out a year of football in I don't know how long I can remember," White said. "So I'm just real excited to get back out there."

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