When Gophers defensive end Greg White comes out of his stance to rush the quarterback, he’s taking a calculated risk.
The East Orange, N.J., product is particularly fond of employing a spin move as his passport to the pass pocket.
“(Linemen) Dyron Russ and Karon Riley call me “Taz,” because when I pass rush I’m always spinning,” White said.
Trouble is, an aware offensive lineman can change White’s final destination from the backfield to his back.
Defensive ends coach Mark Snyder says the spin “is a good pass-rush move, and Greg is pretty good at it.”
In the same breath, Snyder points out White is still learning; a work in progress. But being out of football for a year can do that.
White sat out last season after failing to meet the academic standards of Proposition 48, which states that athletes must score at least a 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and have a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Though forced to learn the hard way, the astute White also picked up some life lessons during his football dormancy.
“I learned a lot about who likes you and who doesn’t like you because you messed up,” White said. “Now that football is back on, you see some people coming back wanting to talk to you.”
Football for White is back on, and it started with the season opener against Ohio. After the game, coach Glen Mason praised White’s play against the Bobcats option.
Although used sparingly since, White played against Purdue at linebacker. The homecoming game took on a personal meaning.
“I was recruited as a linebacker,” White said. “When the coaches told me I was going to defensive end, I didn’t think I fit the description.”
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 265 pounds, White does lack some sand in his bucket. But current trends in college football show more of an emphasis on defensive athleticism than bulk. To that end, White is a good fit.
As linebacker Sean Hoffman put it, “The more athletes you have on the field, the better you’re going to be.”
A former heavyweight high school wrestler, White extolled the acquired virtues of leverage and endurance for his football progress.
“I’d recommend to anyone who would ask to wrestle after the football season,” White said. “Not here, though. They’re good here.”
The 1998-99 Big Ten champion wrestling squad is good, a group who remains dangerous even at play.
“One day (Big Ten heavyweight champion) Brock Lesnar picked me up around the waist,” White said laughing, “and he hurt me. I said, ‘Put me down, please let me go.'”
These days, White is content watching the likes of Goldberg of TV’s “World Championship Wrestling.” He is learning by watching teammates Riley and senior Jon Michals, also.
“Karon is more athletic and Jon is more experienced,” White said. “Since I play behind both of them, I think I have the best of both worlds.
“They both play a part into my way of approaching the game.”
The Gophers venture to No. 2 Penn State this weekend, and White figures to have numerous friends and family from New Jersey in attendance.
Add those to the other 95,000 screaming fans at Beaver Stadium and the atmosphere is enough to make one’s head spin.
But that’s just fine with No. 50. He makes his living spinning like an over-sized top toward the opposition’s quarterback.
David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]