For this week's entry in the "Unheralded 2013 Player of the Week" series we return to the Texas panhandle, where we began the series five weeks ago by highlighting Canyon Randall quarterback Collin Bowen. Making a name for himself just a few miles north of Canyon is this week's featured player, Charleston White of Palo Duro High School in Amarillo.
White plays both ways for the Palo Duro Dons, spending time at safety and wide receiver. He has made highlight plays at both positions, and with him measuring in at around 6'1" and 165 lbs. he could conceivably play on either side of the ball in college. But I imagine coaches who watch his highlight film would think long and hard before making the decision to keep him away from the offensive side.
As a junior he had 46 receptions for 759 yards (16.5 ypc) and 6 touchdowns for a Palo Duro team that finished 2-8. Palo Duro has been much improved in 2012, as they were victorious in each of their first 3 games before losing by four points in a week 4 shootout against state-ranked Wolfforth Frenship. White filled up the stat sheet and lit up the scoreboard in the loss to Frenship, catching 5 passes for 241 yards and 4 touchdowns, recording 8 tackles (4 solo), returning a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown on the game's final play, and returning the game's opening kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown that was wiped out by a penalty.
His stats after four games this season: 15 catches for 386 yards (25.7 ypc) and 6 touchdowns, 26 tackles (12 solo), an interception returned 70 yards for a touchdown, and one touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return.
Video: Charleston White returns an interception 70 yards in a 2012 game vs. Plainview
At worst I believe Charleston White is a poor man's Kendall Sanders, though that could actually turn out to be a low estimation of his potential. Like many high school receivers, his highlight film doesn't show a great variety in the types of routes run (when he shows up in the frame before making a catch anyway), but with White what jumps out on film isn't so much how he gets open and catches the ball, it's what he does once he catches it. When he gets the ball in space he is very elusive and often evades multiple defenders before being tackled. He has very good speed for streaking past cornerbacks on fly routes, and he can turn a short hitch route into a long gain with his elusiveness.
On the very first play of his junior highlight video, he runs just such a route, catches the pass outside the left hash mark at the opponent's 40 yard line, spins to break the tackle of the defender covering him, speeds upfield, makes a couple of cuts and stutter steps to reverse field (with one of those cuts resulting in two defenders crashing into each other), and beats two defenders to the end zone running along the right sideline. By the time he scores on that play he has eluded the grasp of 7 different would-be tacklers who were within a stride of him. (Click here to watch that sequence, then keep watching. Please.)
He has good change of direction skills and makes exceptionally quick cuts that suggest he'll be good at separating from defenders when going in and out of his breaks on routes, though his route-running skills don't show up much on film. He's a thin guy but puts a lot of effort into his downfield blocks on running plays, and on plays that break down where his quarterback is forced to scramble he'll recognize the situation and block the nearest defender. He also puts his skills to use as a kick returner, and in Palo Duro's most recent game he returned kickoffs for touchdowns on the game's first and last plays (the first one was nullified by a penalty).
He has spent more time on defense as a senior than in previous years. He doesn't carry the weight of a college safety but flies to the ball quickly and though he isn't a particularly hard hitter (he often aims to take out the ball-carrier's legs), he appears to be a reliable tackler, and a player who diagnoses plays well. If he ends up on defense in college it'll more likely be at cornerback than safety.
According to Charleston White's Rivals page, he has offers from Nevada and New Mexico, and "interest" in several other schools. He has not been graded by Rivals or any of the other major recruiting sites. His Palo Duro teammate Montrel Meander (who is categorized by Rivals as a safety but has the size and speed to possibly play receiver as well) holds nearly a dozen offers, including ones from Colorado, Houston, Texas Tech, UT-San Antonio, and Tulsa, along with both schools which have offered White. Meander is graded by Rivals as a two-star prospect, though I would have expected a guy with his size (6'3" 180 lbs.) and speed (he ran the 200 meters in 21.55 at the Class 4A region 1 track meet last spring, finishing 2nd to Baylor commit and UT target Robbie Rhodes) to be graded higher just on versatility and athleticism alone. I doubt you'll find many two-star players holding as many offers.
With so many schools pursuing Meander it's likely that most of them are aware of White and what he is capable of. His junior highlights featured his receiving and kick returning skills, but his senior year highlight video (posted on Hudl earlier this week) shows off more of his versatility and includes several clips of him making plays on defense. There's a lot to like about him and what he brings to the table, and he has as good a chance as any player I've looked at to rise from being unrated and lightly recruited going into his senior year, to impressing enough to attain three- or four-star status by signing day. If White stays under the radar and goes on to be a dynamic playmaker for some Mountain West or Conference USA team, we could be adding his name to the list of in-state gems that the big programs (Texas included) missed on.
Personally, I'm hoping that if he doesn't somehow end up being the last wide receiver to sign with UT's 2013 class (a very long shot right now), he'll still get the attention of Big 12 programs and sign with somebody on Texas's schedule next year. If he's on a Big 12 roster and gets playing time against Texas as a true freshman, this will set up the possibility of sports fans witnessing the first Charleston vs. Carrington battle since the 1879 Polo Championship. That, and at least 100 people watching on TV will send tweets to Bill Simmons that include the hashtag #ReggieClevelandAllStars.
For anyone who lives in or may be passing through the Texas panhandle this fall who is interested in watching Charleston White, Montrel Meander and the rest of the Amarillo Palo Duro Dons football team, I've posted the remainder of their 2012 schedule below.
October 5 - at Borger
October 12 - at Amarillo
October 19 - at Canyon Randall
October 26 - vs. Dumas
November 2 - at Amarillo Caprock
November 8 - vs. Canyon
Previous Unheralded 2013 Player of the Week picks:
Week Four - Gennard Johnson, DT (Waxahachie)
Week Three - Devante Pullum, Athlete (Little Elm)
Week Two - Tyrel Stokes, DB (Killeen Harker Heights)
Week One - Derick Bates, WR (Belton)
Week Zero - Collin Bowen, QB (Canyon Randall)