MORGANTOWN - In the old days, sports reporters covering WVU would slap on some sunscreen, take a notepad and watch almost all of the preseason Mountaineer practices.It was good for the school, which reaped the benefit of the publicity. It was good for the reporters, who had a clear understanding of the team. It was good for the fans, who received the most concise picture possible.These days, however, paranoia rules. At WVU, reporters are "allowed" to see a half hour of practice here or there. One can request a player to interview, but coaches must approve the selection. It's a different era thanks, in part, to cell phones with still and video cameras.Much of what we learn, then, comes via word of mouth. And this past week one lesson came across loud and clear. It was repeated more than multiplication tables.
The subject was WVU's most sparkling player in camp so far. See if you can detect a winner."I really think Kevin White," said offensive tackle Nick Kindler. "He really understands things well now. He's catching and blocking.""Charles Sims," said quarterback Paul Millard. "And as far as the receivers go, Kevin White. He's big, tall and explosive.""Kevin White," said offensive lineman Pat Eger. "He goes out every day and works hard. He's hustling. He goes downfield. You can tell he put in a lot of work in the offseason. He's capitalizing on that."
And finally, there was this from safety Darwin Cook."You already know who," Cook said with a smile. "Kevin White. He's a man."It's somewhat surprising in one way. Sure, White, a 6-foot-3, 211-pound junior college transfer, made waves in the spring. But there was an influx of talent, especially in regard to receivers, for this camp.One thought highly regarded freshman Shelton Gibson's name would be on the tip of tongues. Perhaps that of Mario Alford or Ronald Carswell. Someone new.
Sims, as you read, was mentioned. Dustin Garrison pointed to fellow running back Wendell Smallwood. ("He's really come on," Garrison said. "He's starting to understand the offense, the line blocking and everything else.") As a follow-up, Kindler pointed to Sims, Garrison and linemen Curtis Feigt and Quinton Spain. Defensive end Will Clarke got a pat from Garrison. Cook followed up with Dreamius Smith and Sims.White, though, continues to impress all. He did so in the spring. He's apparently doing so now.Actually, it's a great sign for head coach Dana Holgorsen. It's another dimension.
Mountaineer fans are used to the exploits of 5-8, 176-pound Tavon Austin, who was so coveted in the most recent NFL draft that the St. Louis Rams shipped a second-round pick to the Buffalo Bills and swapped first- and third-round picks to select him.Alford, a transfer, is 5-9, 175 pounds. Jordan Thompson is 5-7, 168 pounds. They are Smurfs. Ditto freshman Jacky Marcellus. Gibson, Carswell, Dante Campbell and Devonte Mathis are all 6-foot or taller.None, however, have the body combination of White. It's a throwback to the old days, when the bigger receivers ruled. Now even in the NFL, smaller, quicker players like Austin and Wes Welker are getting more looks and publicity."We thought it was important to get some guys in here with a little more experience and maybe a different body type than high school guys," Holgorsen said way back at the start of spring drills.Receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said, "yes, he's what you're looking for. He's big, athletic, can run, is tall, catches the ball ... I'd take five or six Kevin Whites."At the time, though, Galloway was hesitant to say more. White, after all, was new to WVU's camp. A native of Plainfield, N.J., White was fresh from Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. He was ranked the No. 2 junior college receiver in that state by one service.
But Galloway didn't want White to get cocky and then complacent.Word is, he didn't.Many words.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.