Recruiting Spotlight: Darius White

Third in the series of the Crowning Six (Jordan Hicks, Jackson Jeffcoat).

D-money_roy_medium

Vitals

Name: Darius White

Position: Wide receiver

Height: 6-3

Weight: 205

Speed: 4.5 40-yard dash

High School: Fort Worth Dunbar

Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (6.0)

Post-commitment thoughts

Overview/Recruitment

Even though the recruiting services have been around for some time, the recruiting process is still evolving. High school athletes are still coming to terms with, well, the terms of the process. Some handle it better than others. Especially for the national recruits, it's difficult to balance the demands of football and school with the demands of those seeking a few quotes.

The major lesson might be that the work of the recruiting services doesn't operate in a vacuum occupied only by the rabid fans of college football. College coaches apparently frequent the websites as well in an attempt to gather information of the player and their favorite schools. Ill considered statements by the recruit can send message boards into full meltdown mode and greatly impact their future -- if a prospect sounds like a lock for one school, while also possibly having an impact on which schools recruit that prospect.

Darius White is perhaps the perfect example of how a statement early in the recruiting process can make things incredibly difficult. As a national talent, his early statements about Texas didn't scare teams away, as he received scholarship offer from one coast to the other, but it did greatly impact fan perception.

Here's the quote in question ($) from his first interview, given during late October of his junior season:

I really, really want to go to UT. That's my No.1 choice. I really want to go to UT. If I go there it'll be a big chance for me and my family.

In a moment of sincere honesty, Darius White caused himself a lot of trouble. It's impossibly to quantify something nebulous like stress, but it's safe to say that this statement greatly increased White's level of stress over the next year. Texas fans considered him a virtual lock and expected a commitment throughout much of the spring. When it finally became apparent that White didn't intend to commit during the spring, Longhorn fans bereft of positive recruiting news after the heady days of February and March began to melt down.

A journey through the process

Speculation and rampant speculation during the time of meltdowns.

After his summer camp visit:

Life is not particularly simple these days for Darius White. No, not for someone who receives constant phone calls, text messages, emails, all from people wanting to know his latest favorite, or his latest list, or latest trips planned, or if he's going to be a package deal with his Dunbar teammates. On and on. Inquiring minds want to know.

The inquiring minds of Texas fans want to know about his visit last week for the first summer camp ($). On that front, White is not particularly forthcoming:

It was fun. It was interesting. I like it. Everybody was cool. We just went out there and played ball.

Okay, then.

Likewise, as he has for some time, White is playing coy about his favorites, saying that he has no leader among his top schools: Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. For the moment, White says "they're all equal." White has not yet had a chance to visit USC or Oklahoma State, but he will be making a trip up to Stillwater in the near future with his teammates Rashaod Favors and Dominique Sanders, as well as to Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Much recent speculation has surrounded whether or not schools will offer White's teammates in an effort to gain a commitment from the superstar wide receiver. Given that Texas did not invite either one down for the summer camp for another evaluations, it's probably safe to say that neither are in line to receive an offer. And for his part, White says that it would be great to play with his current teammates again in college, but, in his words, "if we don't, we don't."

As for a timetable on a decision, White plays it coy once again, saying that only his mother knows about that, most likely because they need to find time in their busy schedules to sit down and talk about it. White does say that he is "kind of winding things down a lot." Cryptic recruitspeak of the highest degree.

And so, the only certainty in the recruitment of Darius White continues to be the great prevalence of uncertainty. To channel my inner Kurt Vonnegut, "So it goes."

Mid-summer thoughts:

First the bad news. White says that his mother, once considered to favor the Longhorns, really likes Oklahoma ($) at this point (possibly because of the closer proximity to Fort Worth), meaning that Oklahoma may now be the favorite. The fact that Oklahoma is recruiting both of his teammates (Sander and Favors) is no doubt helping to sway White, who also reportedly says that he likes the fact that OU always has good quarterbacks (and the last terrible quarterback to play consistently at Texas was?).

So it now appears that both his mother, thought to be the major key in his recruitment, and his teammates, who certainly have a strong influence on White, are now in the corner of the Sooners. I mentioned this in my last Afternoon Brewsky, and I'll say it again for what will hopefully be the last time, but it is extremely unlikely that the Longhorns will pursue Rashod Favors -- it's just not worth talking about right now unless something changes. If White is going to swing back towards the Longhorns, it's almost undoubtedly going to be without any chance for him to play with his high school teammates in college.

And oh yeah, the good news was that Texas is in his top five, along with Florida, Texas Tech, USC, and Oklahoma. And sorry, because that's not really good news at all, as it would be a monumental surprise had White chosen to eliminate the Longhorns at this point. He's also considering taking a visit down to Florida in the next several weeks, so they could be moving up his list in the near future as well. I guess it's all really just bad news...

The Favors incident:

So here's what went down at the spring game with Darius White -- after showing up with his high school teammates Rashod Favors and Dominique Sanders, Favors received a handwritten nametag that identified him as White's guest rather than a "prospect," as the namategs identified nearly every other potential recruit. Epic fail on the part of the coaching staff -- failing to print out a nametag for Favors and listing him as a guest of White makes little sense. An invitation to the spring game isn't exactly the same as receiving a Longhorn offer, so why wouldn't Texas take more time to at least respect White's friend and teammates and friends as the solid football players that they are? Not having name tags for them and generally acting like they're second-rate guests is inexplicable and inexcusable. White is and has been one of the most important targets in the whole class -- treat him like it.

For a program known for supposedly getting the little details right, Texas clearly didn't in an extremely important recruitment. It's fine not to give White a great deal more attention than the other targeted players, but it wasn't exactly a secret that his teammates matter to him and wasn't exactly surprising that they came down with him. The coaches should spoken with him before the spring game and explicitly asked about his friends. Acknowledging them is a long way from actually offering them just to make a good impression on White. Acknowledgement should be the absolute minimum. No wonder White doesn't feel comfortable with the Texas program right now -- the coaches preach about "family" all the time and creating that homey atmosphere, something that didn't happen with White because of the disrespect of White's Dunbar family.

And that isn't to say that such treatment is a larger problem plaguing the program -- just an unfortunate, isolated incident that may cost Texas one of the top players in the country.

Pre-official visit:

As for White, the prospects for an official visit seemed unlikely just days ago, particularly after the commitment of DeMarco Cobbs -- it seemed likely only a matter of time until White would become a Sooner. The depth chart is still a critical factor in his recruitment and may eventually help land him in Norman, as might the commitment of long-time friend Rashod Favors to Oklahoma. There's also speculation that his stepdad, who just recently married his mother, favors Oklahoma as well, though that is of course speculation.

The key is that White contacted the Texas coaching staff to express his renewed interest, much like Cobbs did a little more than a month ago -- his contacting the coaching staff makes his feelings for Texas seem as strong and genuine as they have in months. In other words, the official visit moves White's recruitment in a much more positive direction for Texas than it has since his visit for a summer camp in June. Oklahoma may still be a slightly favorite, but it appears that the Longhorns are back in the mix with White.

Post-official visit thoughts:

For Jeffcoat and White, it must have been abundantly clear that the famous "family atmosphere" at Texas clearly is that. Perhaps White also was able to clear the air with the coaches about the incident at the spring game involving his close friend Rashod Favors. The Dunbar star obviously did not commit to Texas this week and still plans on visiting Norman again this weekend, so the Sooners will likely have the last say in this one unless White makes a decision in a next several days to become a Longhorn, which is doubtful. The best case scenario here is that White remembered all the reasons he talked so much about coming to Texas early in the process, but it's impossible to say right now whether or not that happened. The main thing to remember here is that things look infinitely better with White than they did before he announced his official visit to Austin.

And, finally, the commitment:

Wide receiver Darius White commits to Texas Longhorns (via bevosports)

Quotes:

Post-commitment ($):

On why he chose Texas:

The main reasons I chose Texas are because of Coach Cleve Bryant. Because I know when I get down there they are going to handle me right, and they are going to work me right. I just know it's going to be like another family for me, everyone's going to have my back. I know they've got a really good academic program, a good football team. It's the right place for me.

On committing and the relief of the decision:

After I picked that hat up I just felt so relieved. Ever since then I've had no more phone calls, my phone hasn't been ringing all day anymore.

I've still been getting some letters, but I don't even read them. If it's not from UT, I'm not reading it.

About two weeks before I left to go down to Florida for the all-star game, I sat down in my living room with my mom. We discussed everything about all the schools, and my mind just said to me that (Texas) is where I want to be.

On playing with Garrett Gilbert:

Hey, he's a real good quarterback. He was thrown in there in a big moment and did a good job. He hadn't played in any big moments all year, and then all of a sudden he has to come in after the first few plays of the game. That's a real tough thing to do. He's going to be an awesome quarterback. He was an awesome quarterback coming out of high school. I'm excited to play with him.

In the end, few recruitments that have ended well for Texas have had the incredible ups and downs of the Texas courtship of Darius White. Seeing the smile and relief on the face of White and his mother as he reached for and put on the Texas hat in front of him at the Under Armour game was one of the most moving moments of the entire 2010 recruiting process.

It illustrated not only how good the commitment felt to White, but also, in many ways, how much more difficult that process can become when an entire fanbase waits for bated breath for over a year for a commitment -- there is a ton of pressure. And that should be a strong warning to all high school football players to be careful with their early statements when speaking with recruiting services. One comment can effectively change your life and ratched up the pressure in an already pressure-filled process.

Offers

  • Texas (committed 1/2/2010)
  • Auburn
  • Florida
  • Nebraska
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State
  • Oregon
  • TCU
  • Texas A&M
  • Texas Tech
  • USC
  • Utah
Scouting Report:

Like the other White, the Fort Worth Dunbar star doesn't put up the gaudy numbers of Bud Sasser because of the quarterback play on his team, which is far from elite or even adequate. Blessed with all the physical tools any coach could want in a receiver, White is a remarkable punt returner for his size (much like Dez Bryant), has excellent size, speed, and hands, including the ability to get off the line ($) incredibly well for such a tall receiver. Much more dangerous in the open field than the other White, Darius also has strong body control to allow him to catch balls in traffic, which he does consistently using his strong hands. As befits a player with his size, he's also a willing and capable blocker. The only major concern about White is that he's not a strong route runner at this point and isn't ask to run difficult routes in high school. Of course, Dez Bryant has long been known as a sub-par route runner and it hasn't hurt his effectiveness, so it's unlikely the raw route running will significantly hurt him in college or keep him from being successful.

Darius White is clearly the most talented player in this group [of he, Bud Sasser, and DeAndrew White], even though he recently lost his fifth star in the latest round of ranking updates. Still, there's little question about his ability and he's the best fit for Texas because of his ability to stretch the field and his physical presence. Since Greg Timmons looks like a redshirt this year and two other big receivers are already committed in the 2010 class in Terrell (who may get a look at split end as well as the flex position) and John Harris, the Longhorns aren't in huge need of a tall receiver just for the sake of a tall receiver. White's ability to get vertical down the field with his speed and use his size to bring the ball is what makes him special and though Timmons may develop into that type of receiver, the redshirting freshman faced questions about his ability to stretch the field coming out of high school.

Strengths:

  • Top-end speed -- Big receivers often make it difficult to determine their true speed simply based on their size and stride length, but White is still visibly much faster than anyone on the field with him.
  • Punt return ability -- It was obvious from the Under Armour game, but it's truly remarkable that a player with White's size can return punts at such an elite level. The reason is his feet -- White has a truly elite ability to change direction and use his lateral quickness to get outside of defenders. Dez Bryant is a perfect point of comparison in terms of White's punt return abilities, as Bryant is another large receiver who still manages to excel in a phase of the game normally reserved for smaller players.
  • Pure physical skills -- White is explosive both off the ball and as a leaper, with the ability to high-point jump balls and make plays after the catch using his excellent feet. White also has excellent body control and can adjust to poorly thrown balls both because of his natural ability and the fact that he has had ample practice doing so as a result of the struggles Dunbar has had in finding a reliable quarterback. In terms of physical attributes, there's nothing not to like -- nay, love -- about White as a receiver.
  • Change of direction ability -- Besides his pure speed, the attribute that serves him the best in the punt return game and in creating big plays by making defenders miss in space is his lateral quickness and ability to quickly change direction to afford him the opportunity to use his speed to turn a short pass into a game-changing play.
  • Down-field blocking ability -- As evidenced throughout the recruiting process in his attempts to gain attention for teammate Rashod Favors and Dominique Sanders by delaying his decision, White is the consummate team player and it shows in his blocking down the field, an underrated aspect of success in the running game and one of the reasons why the Texas coaches no doubt fell in love with White. It's also a sign of a positive attitude and an understanding of the impact he can have on the game when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.
  • Hands -- For those frustrated with the inability of Malcolm Williams to turn his immense physical gifts into greater production on the football field, mostly because of his hands, White will be a revelation. Blessed with large, strong hands, White has the ability to attack the ball and catch it away from his body and should never suffer from the same problems holding onto the ball that plague Malcolm Williams. Much like Dan Buckner, Williams also has the ability to make a one-handed catch if necessary.

Weaknesses:

  • Route running -- This is the major weakness of White's game at this point and the only truly limiting factor for his game at the next level. Perhaps due in part to coaching and perhaps due in part to his pure physical ability on which he may rely at times, White often rounds off his routes and fails to use his change of direction ability to eat up the cushion of defenders, as Mike Davis does so well and so consistently.
  • Working against press coverage -- Most high school receivers of White's quality have to face little press coverage, simply because they don't face many elite cornerbacks and most teams are so concerned with giving up big plays that they give elite receivers a big cushion. 

 

2010 Under Armour All-America Game: Exclusive Darius White Highlights (via thenewprototype)

Darius White Junior Film (via ForbesReport)

'10 TX WR Darius White (via RedshirtScouting)

Comparison: Roy Williams. This isn't a hard one. White wore #4 in high school and at the Under Armour All-American game. So even though he hasn't specifically mentioned Roy Williams as a major influence, it's easy to see why the comparison is apt. Like Williams, the major struggle for White is with his route running and avoiding rounding off his routes, which gives defensive backs a chance to jump routes and make a play on the ball because they get an earlier read. Williams still isn't particularly strong in this area, even in the NFL.

Following his commitment at the Under Armour game, the best thing that happened for White was the departure of Buckner. Many people around BON speculated about the number that White would eventually wear and Dan Buckner's terrible decision put all that speculation to rest. The ghost of the playmaker, the ghost of Big Roy is back wearing no. 4 for the Texas Longhorns. That ghost never appeared to be present in Buckner the way it was in Limas Sweed and it's clearly strong in Darius White, both in the way that they move and, as the graphic at the top of the page illustrates, the way that they look even, although it's mostly from that particular angle.

Once again, there is a deserving wide receiver wearing the no. 4 for the Texas Longhorns and his name is D-Money.

Target Weight -- 215-220 pounds. His Rivals page suggests that he needs to work on gaining strength at the collegiate level, but White is plenty developed in his upper body and doesn't need to put in a great deal of time with Mad Dog before he is physically ready to contribute for Texas. White should be able to reach his collegiate playing weight within a year or so of being in the program and his current body structure will not keep him from contributing early.

Verdict

It's far from a given that White will ever become a premier route runner or even approach a player like Mike Davis in that respect -- a distressing thought given the high expectations that accompany White to Texas. The good news is that White is so immensely physically talented that he could still be successful at the college level without ever gaining a high level of refinement in the area of route running. After all, there are still questions about the route-running ability of Dez Bryant even after nearly three years at Oklahoma State and that hardly kept him from becoming an extremely dangerous and at times dominating presence against a high level of competition.

Even if White doesn't become adept at running double moves, deep outs, and other routes that require a great deal of precision in his cuts, his ability as a deep threat running go routes and size catching slants will make him a major weapon in the Texas offense. The fact that he can change direction so decisively suggests not only that he has the ability to develop much better route-running skills, but also for him to be highly effective turning short hitches and even screens into big gains, the type of routes that don't require elite-level precision.

In high school, Garrett Gilbert showed an ability and willingness to throw the ball down the field. Not only that, but Gilbert showed the touch on passes down the field that will allow him to put the ball up where only White can get it or allow him to use his excellent body control to adjust to back shoulder throws and other passes intentionally underthrown. After experiencing poor quarterback play throughout his high school career, it should be a revelation for White to play with a quarterback as developed, accurate, and talented as Gilbert. The two should make for an extremely impressive pair.

Ultimately, there's no question that White has the physical tools to reach and possibly even surpass the lofty expectations that will follow him to Texas and he fills a major need for the future as a big, playmkaing receiver who can be the deep threat for Garrett Gilbert and excel in the play-action passing game at the split end position. In other words, he can be for Gilbert what Limas Sweed was for Colt McCoy as a freshman. Ghost of Big Roy, remember?

Impact ETA: 2011. The possibility certainly exists that White could contribute as a true freshman, especially if the Longhorns continue to employ the twins set that debuted in the national championship game employing to big receivers inside. To earn playing time at that position or on the outside, White would most likely have to beat out Greg Timmons and John Harris. Winning the job over Harris might not be overly difficult, but Timmons was a pretty polished receiver coming into college. It's more likely that White will play sparingly as a true freshman and then burst onto the scene as a sophomore. One thing that plays heavily in his favor is that if Malcolm Williams continues to be a major part of several special teams unit, that could limit his snaps at receiver and offer another player the opportunity for significant playing time at split end. If Williams continues to struggle catching the football, that could open up playing time for other split ends.

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