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Look out, America. Pat White is ready to show off his arm
With slightly more than five minutes left in last January's Gator Bowl and West Virginia clinging to a 38–35 lead over Georgia Tech, coach Rich Rodriguez pulled quarterback Patrick White aside. "We need to get three or four first downs," he said, "and we're not going to [risk too many handoffs]." Sure enough, White, playing with hand, ankle and neck injuries, took the ball on 10 of the game's final 12 plays, gaining 54 yards and four first downs to run out the clock. "He willed us to win," says Rodriguez.
Winning has become routine for the lanky 6' 2", 185-pound quarterback from Daphne, Ala. Since taking over Rodriguez's spread-option offense midway through the 2005 season, the junior has rushed for 2,171 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading the Mountaineers to a 16–2 record. Junior running back Steve Slaton garners more attention from Heisman voters, but White may be more dangerous simply because he touches the ball on every play. "He's probably the fastest guy on the field at any time," says Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. "And he's the quarterback."
A Daphne High outfielder picked in the fourth round of the 2004 draft by the Angels (who selected him again in the 27th round in June), White has 4.42 speed, which at first overshadowed his passing skills; he averaged just 11.1 throws over his first eight starts. But with defenses gearing up against West Virginia's rushing attack (ranked in the top five nationally in each of the past two seasons), Rodriguez began relying more on White's arm. In a 45–27 win at archrival Pittsburgh last November, White completed 11 of 16 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns (while also rushing for 220 yards and two scores). Six weeks later in the Gator Bowl, he began West Virginia's comeback from a 35–17 deficit with a 57-yard touchdown strike to Tito Gonzales. "I just like getting the ball into the end zone any way I can," says White.
After completing 65.9% of his attempts last year, White is poised to become college football's most dangerous run-pass threat since Texas's Vince Young. With the return of veteran receivers Gonzales and Darius Reynaud and the arrival of freshman speed demon Noel Devine (whom Rodriguez hopes to use at tailback and slot receiver), the Mountaineers' offense figures to be even more explosive. Rodriguez and new quarterbacks coach Rod Smith -- himself a former Rodriguez signal-caller at Division II Glenville (W.Va.) State -- have worked with White on quickening his release. "The biggest surprise is going to be the passing game," says Reynaud. "We're going to kill them with that this year." -- Stewart Mandel
Issue date: August 20, 2007