By Eric Wein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
There are two distinctly different sides to Arizona quarterback Dan White.
One is the confident signal caller who barks out the cadence while leading his team down the field.
The other is the soft-spoken one who likes to direct praise toward his teammates rather than to himself and understands that his position is often the target of criticism. This is the same one who walks around campus virtually unnoticed.
After his first season as a college quarterback, White simply wants to make improvements on certain facets of his game Ä completion percentage and consistency.
UA coach Dick Tomey wants White to raise his percentage to somewhere between 55 and 60 percent by relying more on short patterns to tight ends and running backs.
"I'm not sure there's a guy with a better arm in the conference," Tomey said. "But that doesn't necessarily translate into being an outstanding quarterback. It's not the guy who throws the farthest. It's the guy who has the best judgment, the best patience. But he's still a great, young quarterback."
When White was on, he was electrifying, completing 14 of 21 for 228 yards with no interceptions against USC and at ASU, going 14 for 18 for 209 yards and no interceptions.
When he was off, he stumbled miserably and forced the Wildcats to rely more on the run.
"From a personal standpoint I matured a lot," White said. "I had my ups and downs. Overall, it was a good year."
Last year was the first live action he'd seen since playing for Point Loma (San Diego) High School as a senior.
Considering it was his debut in college football, by most standards it wasn't too shabby.
"When you play quarterback, you expect to take a lot of heat. It's part of the position," White said. "Maybe I didn't feel it was fair all the time. I didn't play well at times, but as quarterback, you have to take the pressure."
Growing up, White was always a Penn State fan because his father had played quarterback there from 1965-66.
After leaving high school, he decided to follow his father and play for the Nittany Lions. But he wasn't in Penn State's immediate plans.
Feeling like precious time would slip by if he served in a backup role, White decided to transfer after two years at Penn State.
White called up his high school coach, Bennie Edens, for some advice. It just so happened that UA defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff was talking to Edens in his office at the time of the call. With some encouragement, White contacted the Arizona coaches and decided to transfer.
Before long, White was in Tucson working on Arizona's scout team while he sat out a year for transferring. As George Maluulu ran the offense in 1992, White was recreating opposing quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe and Gino Toretta in practice so the UA defense could get some idea of those passers.
"When I was sitting out, I was pretty used to it. I had a lot of patience," White said.
"It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Looking back, it was a long three years but I was young and I was maturing during those years."
Before his debut last year, White spent the summer practicing with one of his receivers from high school, current UCLA receiver and Heisman hopeful J.J. Stokes. One after another, White would drop back and throw bullets down the field to Stokes, who would haul them down.
"He's always been low key," White said of his former teammate. "We knew he'd be a good player but we never knew he'd get to where he is now. He's the top receiver in the country."
With a veteran line in front of him and potentially sensational receivers in sure-handed Richard Dice and speedsters Lamar Lovett, Cary Taylor and Cullen Plousha, it would seem White would have more advantages this season.
"I think he's further along to becoming a total quarterback. He has started knowing where people are and he doesn't have to think as much but react," offensive coordinator Duane Akina said.
One of White's successes went unnoticed last season because it was in the Wildcats' disappointing 24-20 loss to Cal. After the Wildcats had seen their 20-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter, White marched the offense down the field in a two-minute drill, but a few ill-timed penalties helped cancel the Wildcats' scoring threat.
With that kind of experience, White should be able to lead Arizona down the field on a two-minute drill if he's called on.
"I think he's got that kind of ability," Akina said. "More than anything, he looks forward to it. That's what you want in a guy like that. When it's on the line, you want a guy that says, 'Oh boy,' rather than, 'Oh no.'"
White thinks this season would be a disappointment if he were to repeat what he did last year. With a little improvement, White could be the key ingredient to leading Arizona to its first Rose Bowl.
Maybe it's because he's quiet and doesn't talk up his abilities after every success, but White hasn't become the Tucson celebrity like Tedy Bruschi.
That has translated into virtual obscurity when he's off the field and out of his No. 16 jersey.
It seems ironic that the quarterback of one of the country's most promising teams this year can get away with walking around his own campus unnoticed on most days.
To White, it doesn't matter.
"Somebody will recognize you every once in a while," White said. "I like it. I don't think it's a bad thing."
That side of Dan White may disappear if he leads the team to greatness this season.
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