MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Whether the source was West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson or receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, the refrain regarding Kevin White sounded similar:
“He has no idea how good he can be.”
White heard the expectancy and felt primed to make the leap from junior college, imagining himself following the likes of Crabtree, Welker, Blackmon, Bailey and Austin—hyperproductve Air Raid receivers who parlayed college success into NFL jobs.
Yet White’s first go-round at West Virginia was a transitional season tempered by lessons and lapses. He wound up with only 35 catches—one fewer than he posted as a sophomore Lackawanna College—and his self-evaluation was more telling than the statistics.
“Last year I just showed a glimpse. I’d catch a ball here or drop a ball there,” White said. “I was too inconsistent. Too many dropped balls and mistakes—running the wrong route, making the wrong release.”
There were nuances of route-running and more pre-snap reads to digest than White encountered in junior college. With Big 12 football requiring a deeper commitment, and the scrutiny amplified, a pleaser like White allowed the small mistakes that only coaches noticed to fester into bigger mistakes everyone saw.
Against Georgia State he dropped a screen pass that could have gone for a touchdown, and later was benched for the second half after bobbling a sure-fire score in the end zone. That followed a potentially game-changing fumble at Oklahoma after WVU had driven into the red zone.
“It was me not wanting to mess up and then actually messing up, because I was thinking too much,” he said. “Not wanting to let anybody down then letting them down and hanging my head.”
Coincidentally, in some of White’s quietest individual games, West Virginia’s offense showed promise. He made one catch for 17 yards in the 30-21 upset of Oklahoma State, caught one ball for 5 yards in the 30-27 win at TCU, hauled in two passes for 27 yards in a 52-44 loss to Iowa State.
A more confident and consistent White—excited to be paired with fellow senior receiver Mario Alford and eager to see Clint Trickett seize the quarterback job—aims to boost the Mountaineers’ passing game in 2014. He especially wants to do a more consistent job beating shorter cornerbacks for the 50-50 deep balls that eluded him last season.
“I’m smarter, can read the defense better, know exactly where I have to be, know how to recognize coverages,” he said. “I feel like my down-the-field presence will be a lot better. I’m able to track the ball more and I’m working on over-the-shoulder catches.”
TRUSTING IN TRICKETT
After a summer’s worth of 7-on-7 passing sessions, White has witnessed the restoration of Trickett’s arm strength following offseason labrum surgery.
“It’s better, a lot better,” White said.
Trickett lost zip on his passes after suffering a separated shoulder in the second half against Oklahoma State. He played through pain the rest of the season, occasionally drooping his right arm after hits, and some sideline throws became problematic.
“We knew it was tough for him,” said White, making a looping hand motion to demonstrate how Trickett tried to compensate by putting more air under his passes. “He couldn’t get it there on a line anymore, so he would try to throw it before we got out of our breaks.”
Those rainbow throws are no more, said White, recalling a recent pass Trickett fired through a narrow window.
“Last week I ran an inside route and sure enough I turned my head and he hit me right on time past the defenders,” White said. “I feel like he’s getting it back.”