MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — To be fair, Clint Trickett asked for this.
It was West Virginia’s quarterback who came up with clever way to spend more time with his big receiver, Kevin White. Trickett was the one who said he’d drive 20 or so minutes out of his way after a brief getaway in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Allentown, where he’d pick up White and take him back to campus. He knew they’d be in the car for about five hours and they could make the time count.
“I got to know Clint outside of football,” White said. “We talked about life stuff. It helped us bond and get to know each other better.”
They talked football, too, and went over the 2013 season, how they fared in their first year with the Mountaineers, what they wanted to change as seniors this fall. They got to know what they thought of one another, of strengths and weaknesses, of what one could do to make the other better.
“He wants to be the guy all the time, and I think he can be, I think he will be and I think he has been based on what I’ve seen so far,” Trickett said.
Granted, White, now in his second season after transferring from Lackawanna (Pa.) College, has unusual ways of showing it.
That one car ride started White’s engine before preseason camp began and it hasn’t slowed yet. When Saturday’s practice ended and Trickett saw he was just a few minutes away from putting an ice pack on that surgically repaired shoulder, White saw no such ending.
“Hey, man,” he said. “Want to work on some things?”
“Kevin, dude, it’s the third day of practice,” Trickett said. “Just relax. You’re going to be fine.”
White is this way now because of how he treated the offseason, how he made use of that one trip with Trickett or the many trips to the top of Law School Hill. Nobody got to the top as quickly and as easily as White.
That’s an achievement on its own, but consider that the Mountaineers didn’t run the hill last summer. It was new to White this year and he handled it.
“Mindset,” he said. “I’d just think of stuff that makes me mad, things that push me, and then I’d run up it.”
He’d stand at the bottom and stare at the top, a place so high, so far away they say the vegetation changes, the air is thinner and on some days the grass is frosted. Again and again he’d tell himself he wouldn’t let what happened in 2013 happen in 2014.
“I wouldn’t say my numbers were terrible,” said White, who started nine times in 11 games and had 35 receptions for 507 yards and five touchdowns. “But I didn’t play like I know how I can play. I have big goals for this season, so I’d think about all that stuff.”
The goals aren’t merely numbers. They’re roles, too. White wants to be the best receiver on the team. He wants to be Trickett’s trusted target on quick throws and deep ones, on third down and in the red zone. He wants to set a course and lead the way for a group of receivers that didn’t have someone providing directions last season.
There was meaning behind those ascents up the hill and White knows it wouldn’t have been the same a year ago, when he just wasn’t as willing to stand out.
“I would have stayed in the pack, not wanted to show off,” he said. “Maybe ‘show off’ isn’t the right way to put it, but I wouldn’t want to beat everybody and make it look easy. I would have tried to stay with everyone else.”
Now, whether on the hill, on the field or after practice, he wants people to follow him. That explains something else people hadn’t seen from White.
Monday’s practice was the first in pads and with contact, which meant the first day with the Oklahoma drill. A quarterback hands off to a teammate and he has to get a block from a teammate battling a defender, all within a small area confined by orange cones.
White matched up with preseason all-Big 12 safety Karl Joseph. White powered Joseph out of the way and then barked and boasted about how easy it was and how he’d do it to whoever the defense lined up across from him.
It was riveting, not only because a force like Joseph was just tossed to the side, but because White, the same player who wouldn’t dare run past teammates on the way to the top of the hill, confessed he really hadn’t acted out like that before.
But that was then and this is a time for change.
“I wouldn’t have done that last year either because I didn’t know everyone and I didn’t want to come off cocky and arrogant,” he said. “I wouldn’t have talked like that, but now, I can do that. The guys behind me look to me as a leader.”
A few moments later, receiver Lamar Parker was lined up across fellow freshman Daejuan Funderburk and Parker dismissed the safety as Parker’s teammates on offense lost their minds.
“We just need someone to set the tempo,” White said. “I feel like I do it, they’ll follow.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His bog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.