DALLAS - West Virginia’s Kevin White
admits he’s a much wiser man heading into his senior season in 2014.
White, the Mountaineers’ 6-foot-3-inch, 208-pound senior wide receiver, finished third on the team in 2013 with 35 receptions, good for 507 yards and a team-best five touchdowns – solid numbers for just about any wide receiver not playing in a Dana Holgorsen offense.
Of course, Holgorsen’s wide receivers have been known through the years for their massive production, and White, a Lackawanna College transfer, was expected to be the next great one when he arrived last winter.
And while there were signs of progress, a slip screen here for a touchdown in the spring game, a seven-catch college debut there at Oklahoma, or a 130-yard receiving performance out in Waco, there were just as many instances when White disappeared altogether.
There were drops, wrong routes, misreads and bad releases that comes from a general lack of experience playing in a pass-centric system – things such as sitting in coverages, finding the soft spot in defenses, getting off the line of scrimmage properly or catching the football at its highest points, things all new to White.
“Last year I really didn’t know much and I had to think a lot,” he said.
When White played in junior college he said it was simply a matter of him using his natural, God-given talents to beat the guy in front of him. Rapport with the quarterback simply meant running as straight and as fast as he could down the field or jumping higher than the guy covering him to catch a pass.
“It was just a matter of whether (the defense) could stop it or not,” said White.
Not here; not now. The defensive coaches are too smart, the DBs are too fast and the game moves too quickly to get away with that. A player has to know what he’s doing and he has to have a pretty good idea what the other guy is doing as well.
“They’re a lot quicker. They are on me a little more. They’re smarter. The way they line up they get a hint on what I’m going to do,” noted White.
Consequently, a year later, after a full season, after offseason conditioning, after spring practice and now after summer workouts, White has a much better understanding of what to do, and, just as importantly, what he can do for the Mountaineers.
“Last year I showed glimpses of what I can do,” he admitted. “I would catch a ball here or drop a ball there. I feel like my down-the-field presence is going to be a lot better. I can track the ball a lot better. I’m catching a lot of over-the-shoulder passes and I’m going to be more of a deep threat.”
You look at White and you see his large frame, those big, strong hands, the speed and the athletic ability and you would think that things should have come so much easier for him than they appeared to last year. But there were little things that he was failing to do which made the game much harder for him than it should have been.
Once again, those are things that you only learn through experience.
“I’ll catch the ball and leave it out there too long and that’s when (the defensive backs) deflect it,” said White. “I just need to learn to tuck it quicker.”
Teammate Daryl Worley
, one of those DBs who lined up across from White all spring and has been facing him this summer during summer training, says White has the ability to be a dominant, high-draft-pick type of receiver this year if he puts his mind to it.
“In practice there are times when he can switch it on at the snap of a finger. He does things and it’s like, ‘Where did that come from?’” said Worley. “Then there are other times when he is just so passive and I think that was reflective last year, but he’s such a great player and he has everything that you would want in that first-round-type of receiver.”
White said there times when he messed up simply by trying not to mess up.
“I was thinking too much. I didn’t want to let anyone down and I ended up letting them down,” he said. “I was hanging my head and you’ve just got to play the next play.”
Presently, White has been spending a lot of time this summer developing a rapport with starting quarterback Clint Trickett
. The two are learning those non-verbal things – the nod, the wink; the tap of the helmet or the shoulder pads – that all successful passing combos need to get down.
“He doesn’t have to signal me certain things now,” White admitted. “I just look at him and give him a nod or something. All we have to do is look at each other and we are on the same page.”
As for the overall passing game, White says it will be ready to go this fall. Trickett’s shoulder is better, his arm is much stronger, and receiver corps will be much better because of it.
“We push each other a lot,” White said. “Last year was really our first year so now we know what to look forward to and we know exactly what we have to do.”
Worley said the defensive guys on the other side of the ball will try and give the receivers a little boost to get even more out of them this fall, especially White.
“Every day in practice we as defensive backs try and do our best to pull it out of him,” he said. “I hope that reflects in the games this year.”
Mountaineer fans hope so, too.