WVU football: White continues to impress
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For a player who never thought he'd end up in junior college, West Virginia receiver Kevin White sure seems happy that he did.
The star of WVU's spring game has so far sustained it during preseason practice with the Mountaineers and is on his way to starting at one of the two outside positions.
"It was always in me," White said. "Lackawanna brought it out of me."
White went to Emmaus (Pa.) High, the same school that sent center Aaron Gray to Pitt's basketball team, and White made the all-conference team as a senior as a defensive back and a receiver, that thanks to 47 catches, 747 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He wound up at Lackawanna College, in Scranton, Pa.
"Coming out of high school, I was so great, but going to junior college humbled me," White said.
White understood he wasn't where he wanted to be because he hadn't done enough to warrant inclusion. His first season at Lackawanna was mostly uneventful, but the offseason was not. He worked out at a revered sports performance training center in the Lehigh Valley and was a totally different player when he reported for his sophomore season.
He grew an inch or so and gained 15 pounds of muscle, but he was also faster in a straight line, quicker in tight spaces and able to combine his size, speed and agility like never before.
"I wanted to be the best to get out of junior college," White said. "To go Division I, you have to be spectacular. You have to do something that no one out there is doing. How big I am now, how well I move, how I attack the ball, how physical I am, I knew I wasn't at the best of my abilities then. I had to change something."
He changed his life. White, now 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, caught 36 passes for 525 yards and six touchdowns in 2012 and signed with the Mountaineers in February. That let him participate in spring football and make the most of a head start for a season in which WVU seeks to replace the productivity of NFL draft pick Stedman Bailey on the outside.
"It was a big help," he said. "The plays were hard at first, but now they're pretty easy. I got close to the players so we're real close now compared to coming down now when they don't really know you. Off the field, I'm with those guys a lot."
White earned fans inside the locker room and out of it with the way he played in the spring and the singular highlight of the spring game. White caught five passes for 72 yards, which isn't special for a spring game, but one of those receptions was everything the fans and the coaches were looking for.
He caught a quick throw on the right side as the blocking set up for a screen play, which isn't something WVU did often last season. He avoided the corner back right away and then stepped inside and pushed past a lunging linebacker. He angled toward the middle of the field and stepped through the arms of a defensive lineman and then straightened his route and outran everyone else for a 46-yard touchdown.
"I love those plays," White said. "I'd rather catch a short pass and take it to the house than catch a bomb and just maul someone. Big guys my size shouldn't be able to move the way I do. I take that personal. It's something I like about my game."
WVU didn't do much on the right side of the field last season. Bailey played the left side and J.D. Woods on the right wasn't a threat to turn something small into something big. The Mountaineers intended the majority of their quick throws and screen passes for either Tavon Austin or the running backs.
The way White changed himself may change the way the Mountaineers pass the ball, which would be useful. They're looking for someone to supply statistics outside and White has been looking at Bailey's statistics since he arrived.
"I'm really impressed," he said. "I wonder, 'Can I do that next? Can my numbers be better?'"
Yet that's not where the comparisons end for White. He is a junior college transfer with long, braided hair who wears jersey No. 11 - just like Bruce Irvin.
"I'm very aware," White said, knowing as well as anyone else Irvin helped fund the renovated weight room and has a corner of it dedicated in his name. "I hear it just about every day. When I came in, I'd heard of him, but I'd never really paid attention until I got here. When I saw what he did and that he went in the first round, it was, 'Aw, shoot.' It's a little pressure, but it's cool."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza@hotmail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.