In his second FBS season, West Virginia WR Kevin White exploded onto the national stage in 2014 with an impressive outing against defending national champion Alabama. He finished the campaign with 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 TDs. The senior gained over 100 yards in nine contests, including a standout Liberty Bowl performance against Texas A&M to close out his college career.
A JUCO transfer from Lackawanna (PA) College, White made just 35 catches in 2013, yet showed his potential by averaging 14.5 yards per reception. He began 2014 with a 9-catch, 143-yard effort in the Kickoff Classic, including a touchdown grab against the Crimson Tide, and ended the year by bringing in 7 passes for 129 yards against the Aggies. Along the way, White earned recognition as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the top receiver in college football.
Tale of the Tape
White, listed at 6’3” and 210 pounds, missed the season opener in 2013 due to a foot injury. His 40-yard dash time, listed as 4.49 seconds by NFL Draft Scout, has raised concerns among some observers. With next week’s NFL Scouting Combine looming, NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein wrote, “if White doesn’t run faster than 4.6 in the 40 it’s going to hurt him,” and later added that White’s “40 time could define his draft stock.”
What He Does Well
White is a versatile route-runner, and West Virginia varied his usage throughout the season to take advantage of his diverse skill set. On this first play he is split wide to the right in the red zone, and runs a post pattern:
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He takes advantage of the inside leverage afforded to him by the zone coverage and breaks off quickly on the diagonal. The throw is very high and slightly behind him, but he does a tremendous job of even getting his hands to the football, displaying a high level of athleticism.
On a play against Maryland, White runs a deep comeback route:
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The WR releases outside and uses pure speed to sell the defender on the deep route. He cuts back sharply on the comeback, spinning the defensive back into the turf in the process. This play is an exceptional example of his top-level speed, and how it factors into his route-running. Some scouts have expressed concern about his wheels, but this example, and other plays, has made me a believer. White actually closes the cushion on the DB and beats him on the vertical route, but then beats him again on the cut to the sideline.
On another play from the Maryland game, White runs a deep curl route:
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White shows great awareness of the zone coverage and settles into the open gap in Maryland’s Cover 3 scheme.
Finally, watch this simple hitch route White runs in the season opener against Alabama:
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His precise footwork and violent break sends the defender stumbling, and the defensive back falls to the turf. This enables White to pick up 20+ yards after the catch.
These routes demonstrate that White brings more to a team’s offensive scheme than vertical routes, which are already a strength.
White scored a long touchdown against Maryland on this quick screen, a play that illustrates his skill with the football in his hands, as well as his high-level speed:
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He pulls in the screen pass – hands extended from the body – and races between the two safeties. At the end of the play, he puts a hard cut on the final defender, twisting him around and freeing up a route to the goal line.
West Virginia opened the Maryland game using this screen pass. This might be my favorite play from any wide receiver this season:
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He delivers a strong block on the cornerback at the point of attack, but White continues to work. He tracks down the play from behind, racing out in front of his teammate to deliver a second block over 40 yards downfield. This allows the ball carrier to gain an additional few yards on the play. Teammates and coaches feed off effort like this, especially from such a talented player.
White displays great recognition in the passing game, understanding the coverage in the secondary and the spatial relationship to the players around him. This might be the most important trait for White at the next level, and is my favorite aspect of his game. The deep curl route against Maryland illustrated those skills, as does this next play from the same game where White runs a short crossing route underneath:
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His quarterback breaks from the pocket, prompting White to first try adjusting vertically in the scramble drill. But, sensing deep zone coverage, he cuts off his break and settles down, making a target for the passer. After gathering the ball, he makes the defender miss and picks up a first down for his team.
Here is another example, with White running a deep comeback route against Alabama. Watch as he keeps working back to the quarterback for this throw:
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Rather than wait for the pass to arrive, he tracks toward the passer, preventing the defender from breaking back on the throw and breaking up the play.
Finally, watch White make himself available for his quarterback on this play from the Kickoff Classic:
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He runs a deep curl route, but works into the soft part of the zone – and back toward his quarterback – as the signal-caller vacates the pocket. He pulls in the throw to set up the Mountaineers with a first and goal situation.
White is also a weapon in the vertical game, and can beat defenders on “50/50” throws. Here, White runs a deep post against Maryland’s Cover 3:
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The throw is high, but he pulls in the football at its highest point while fighting off two defenders.
Below, note what happens after White beats the jam at the line of scrimmage against Alabama:
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First, he earns a free vertical release on a red zone fade route. White then attacks the throw, pulling in the football over the top of the defender in the end zone corner for the score. Plays like this will earn him the trust of any NFL quarterback and future offensive coordinators.
Areas to Improve
White is a tremendous all-around receiver, but he does need further development in two areas: focus during catches and refinement of his blocking technique. White has been hampered by drops in his career, particularly in 2013. However, he seems to have made strides in 2014, given his staggering total of 109 receptions, good for third best in the nation.
While White is very eager to assist in blocking, his technique needs work. He tends to stay engaged for extended periods, drawing holding penalties. Here is an example from the Maryland game:
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He makes good contact at the point of attack, but as the play develops the defender tries to break away from the block with the flow of the action. White stays locked on too long, keeping his hands on the defensive back and tugging him away from the play, which prompts a flag.
Comparable Player: Larry Fitzgerald
White is one of the top three receivers in this draft, and likely a top-15 selection. He is a multi-faceted receiver who can step into an NFL system and help an offense in every aspect of the game.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
Raw footage courtesy of JimLightFootball.com