By now, most of Longhorn Nation has heard the news that is sending message boards into full meltdown mode -- the best receiver in the country, super-stud Darius White, once thought to be a virtual Texas lock, not only isn't going to make a decision soon, but might have Oklahoma as his current favorite. Of course, seemingly missing out on every high-profile recruit who made a late decision has left Texas fans in a state of mind about late commits that probably compares to the average Cubs fan as the end of the season approaches -- faded optimism blended with a healthy dose of incredible fatalism.
The word is that many of the opposing coaches recruiting White are using Texas' numbers at receiver (that would be 16 in 2010) as a negative recruiting tactic. There isn't any evidence that those tactics are the reason behind White opening up and extending his recruitment. Comparisons to the Jamarkus McFarland situation stray even farther from the realm of reality, but possess compelling similarities for those who believe that there isn't a single valid reason to go to school in Norman. A more likely answer is that Oklahoma is paying serious attention to White's teammates Rashad Favors and Dominique Sanders, the former now possessing an offer from OU and Sanders are strong possibility to receive one in the near future.
The importance of helping teammates
Those teammates and his mother are invariably pegged as the people closest to White. I've written before that I don't believe package deals end up happening with anything approaching a high frequency and I think that's the case here. Of course, if White sees appeal in the possibility of virtually guaranteed early playing time, the opportunity to play with his high school teammates may be the current separation between Texas and Oklahoma.
With a fairly widespread and vocal following, Favors has a number of Longhorn supporters on the interwebs and still has a slight chance of receiving an offer. A lot of the criticism surrounding Favors is the difficultly of projecting a position for him at the college level, but given the need for spread linebackers, that probably isn't a big consideration. It's possible that Favors has already been approved for an offer, though his only chance of receiving one would come if scholarships are still available after Jordan Hicks or Corey Nelson make a decision -- probably very late in the process. Still, Favors is down to 94 on the latest LSR from a high of 11.
As for Sanders, he projects as either a receiver or cornerback in college and the Longhorns are basically done at both of those positions. He was invited in for the first Junior Day and has the athleticism coaches look for (4.4 40), but he's already been passed over for an offer, meaning there is virtually zero chance he gets one late unless there is a de-commit at receiver or cornerback.
In one of the recent updates, White mentioned sitting out of practice fairly often recently when coaches come to watch or recruit him, a clear effort to make sure that his teammates get a good look. Certainly a selfless move by White, but one that could be a big factor in the extension of his recruitment.
This falls under the category of rampant speculation, but White could be taking longer in large part because he wants his teammates to have all the opportunities to get good offers as possible. Not committing early makes sure that coaches from all over the country will stop by during the season, at which time they will watch his teammates some more. In other words, possibly getting a whole season's worth of attention for his teammates.
A new timetable
Right now, White is planning on waiting so he can take his official visits in the fall -- likely to USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU. Not sure what kind of situation White comes from, but those probably aren't places that his family could afford to take him on their own. For a kid who could go to any school in the country to play football, it makes sense for him to take his time and see what every school has to offer. And who wouldn't enjoy free trips to Florida and southern Cali?
In the near future, probably after school ends in the next several weeks, White will sit down with his mother and discuss his possibility, a talk they haven't had yet because of busy schedules -- Darius says that he falls asleep these days as soon as he gets home from practice. Until that happens, any talk of favorites will draw attention, but probably still fairly preliminary feelings considering the new timetable on the decision. Perhaps even more so than his teammates, White's mother will be a major influence in her son's eventual commitment and the good news for Texas is that she remains a strong pro-UT presence.
Despite all the talk about talking official visits, White makes it clear that he will commit whenever he feels comfortable and makes a decision -- it could happen within weeks, before even waiting for the fall to take his visits.
Even though White won't name a favorite right now, it's probably Texas and Oklahoma at the top of his list now that the Sooners have emerged as the first serious competitor for White's services. As I mentioned the other day, it's probably not time for a full meltdown, though all the talk about Oklahoma did make me a little depressed for about a day. It's just time to create a new timetable and readjust expectations accordingly.
It's probably also worth noting that there is an increasingly vocal segment of the fanbase that believes Mack Brown might need to readjust his recruiting tactics to spend more time targeting high-profile late commits. As Geoff Ketchum noted this week ($), Brown feels strongly about treating each potential recruit the same way, so extending more attention to certain players just isn't part of his modus operandi. In addition, such favoritism can easily create entitlement with the star player and jealousy with the players already committed. Ketchum doesn't believe that Mack will change and I agree.
Longhorn fans will continue to question Brown's tactics if the Longhorns have another high-profile miss with Darius White and will remain on the verge of instantaneous meltdown until White makes a decision.
Oh yeah -- this is what the big deal is about
Darius White Junior Film (via ForbesReport)
What does White mean for the class?
After re-watching the highlights for the fifth time, the superlatives flow quickly and easily with White. Ketchum compares him to Roy Williams, making him a once-a-decade type of talent. Covetousness may be a cardinal sin, but I guess I and the Longhorn Nation are going to need a lot of confession in the coming months.
It's also clear from those highlights that White is in another stratosphere compared to the other three receivers in the class, even Chris Jones. That's why the covetousness and the meltdowns. Visible shivers and blank stares from trying to comprehend White in Sooner crimson.
The receiving class won't be a disaster without White and the class as a whole certainly won't either, but it isn't a stretch so say that the class without White, long thought such a virtual lock, would feel empty and incomplete. Combine that with the reaction, which would probably vary from serious disappointment to full-on sky-is-falling, Mack Brown-can't-get-the-best Chicken Little-isms and let's all just strive to avoid the latter if the worst does indeed happen. Just take a nice deep breath.