More rapidly than one can enunciate John Robinson, the coach of Southern California solves the mystery of why Charles White gave the Heisman Trophy a bad name in the National Football League draft.

"I can understand the insecurity of scouts," Robinson says. "They are frightened by numbers (weight and speed). They come back from checking the numbers and are afraid to go out on a limb.

"Charles' best quality is his ability to compete. He's like a John Havlicek . . . a Pete Rose. That's hard to draft. He isn't a blazing speed guy. He's never done well at 40 yards (4.65). He's not the type you say of, "If he gets a step on you he's gone.' He's a Doak Walker type (Detroit Lion running back, 1950-55).

"When you need three yards, Charles gets you three yards, not two yards and eight inches like some guys -- even running between the tackles. I know; I've been there with this man, in big games."

In Southern California's Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State, when White carried that ball 39 times for 247 yards, he seemed at times to be 10 yards downfield before any defenders caught up with him.

That memory baffled fans after 26 teams passed over him before Cleveland took him in the first round of the draft. Some professional observers rationalized that by insisting White ran behind the best college offensive line in the last 10 years.

Offensive tackle Anthony Munoz of USC was the first lineman picked in the draft, the third selection. Teammate and guard Brad Budde was the 11th selection in the first round. Robinson produced 10 draftees, including White, quarterback Paul McDonald, and linebacker Dennis Johnson.

Robinson was considered for the Los Angeles Ram's coaching vacancy before Ray Malavasi replaced George Allen, and by the Oakland Raiders as a former member of their staff, before Tom Flores replaced John Madden.

"If I had gone on to pro football I'd have drafted Charles high," Robinson said. "He will be a very, very good professional," Robinson says. "He'll be called a pro like a Rocky Bleier . . . or a Clarence Davis, who went from here (USC) to the Raiders (from 1971 through 1978). Charles is more talented than they are.

"In the draft, Charles got caught in those decision by the scouts of basically numbers. He weighed 185 prior to the Rose Bowl, but caught the flu that week, he had it the day of the game. He wasn't over it by the time he played in Honolulu the next week. He was down to 178 pounds.

"We tried to hide that during the Rose Bowl week; he missed most of three or four practices. Then the pro scouts said. "They lied about White's weight.'"

Robinson dismisses the overriding emphasis by the scouts on weight. "Nobody runs over people inside, except an Earl Campbell.

"Charles has made a living running between the tackles, by making guys miss him, because he's aggressive and tough. He's a confident man, and, mixed with ego, he'll be all right.

"It is not fair to compare him with O. J. Simpson and Jim Brown . . . to say Charles is better, but he has accomoplished as much as a collegian."

Robinson says White was not "down" after what figured to be the first big disappointment in his career, the slights in the draft. "He knew he wasn't going to be a top choice," the coach says. "I told him, because I had heard he probably would go in the middle of the round.

"Of course, he would have liked to be a high pick in the first round, but he liked being picked by a team with good runners, like Cleveland. I kind of hoped he would be taken by Oakland; I coached there (as an assistant).

"There will be a time when I will like to go with the pros (as a head coach), when my kids are grown. The pro sport fascinates me; it's a great game.

"I like the college game, but in the pros you get away from the recruiting. In a clutch I would want a Charles White. Mike Garrett (the smallish former USC back who made it big with the Kansas City (Chiefs) is a good one to compare with Charles.

"It will be a whole new game for Charles when the NFL season starts. It will be all even for him then. Dimensions don't count then, only producing. He'll compete. That's what he's best at."