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August 13, 2008Deception might be West Virginia quarterback Pat White's greatest asset.
Oh, sure, White has astounding speed and perhaps an underappreciated passing arm. But lots of players are fast, and most quarterbacks are accomplished passers.
White, arguably the most electrifying player in college football, has an added dimension, though. He has an uncanny ability to make one think he's going one direction when, in fact, he's headed another. It's a gift that has left unfortunate safeties grasping at nothing as White dances around them.
But though adept at making others look inept, White just can't fake out everybody.
For example, he insinuated that last season's loss to Pittsburgh wasn't any more painful than any other loss he has endured. He also indicated he isn't overly interested in the Heisman Trophy, college football's preeminent individual award for which he is a serious contender.
Sorry. We're not biting on either of those jukes.
Last season's loss to Pitt cost the Mountaineers a shot at the national championship. That kind of loss can cause sleepless nights several months later, maybe even for life. Yet White suggested that it was no different from losing a pee-wee football game.
"I still remember losses from when I was 5 years old," he said. "I played in a few championships in pee-wee football and in high school football, and some we won and some we lost. I guess the ones you lose are the ones you take with you. You enjoy the ones you win, but you wish you could win them all."
And as for the Heisman?
"That's the least of my concerns," he said.
Then why did West Virginia create "patwhiteplayshere.com" ? a Web site that features video clips from his litany of incredible plays and posts his gaudy statistics?
Still, give White credit for trying to stay low-key. That wasn't easy for him to do in the offseason.
He was asked so many questions about the transition to coach Bill Stewart from former coach Rich Rodriguez that White now responds to inquiries about Rodriguez with, "Next question." White also caused controversy recently with remarks that painted WVU baseball coach Greg Van Zant as a racist. White offered a retraction and an apology . Now, those issues are behind him, and a critical season is ahead.
The Mountaineers have depended on White since he arrived as a freshman from Daphne, Ala. But this season, West Virginia may rely on him more than ever.
In previous seasons, White shared the spotlight with tailback Steve Slaton. Last season, tailback Noel Devine took some of the glare away, too. But Slaton is gone and while Devine remains, White is the senior leader of an offense that figures to add a few wrinkles and nuances under a new coach.
That might not seem like a big issue at run-oriented West Virginia, which has not ranked higher than 100th nationally in passing offense in White's three seasons. But White is hoping to throw more this season.
"We have a lot of athletes on the field ? guys that can make plays," White said. "I'm hoping we do pass more and I can get the ball in the hands of those athletes so they can make plays. We still have a great athlete in Noel and he has to get his touches. But I'd like to spread the wealth."
He's been doing that in practice.
"Pat had a good day. He was on fire," Stewart said Monday. "He is really doing a nice job of putting the ball where it needs to be."
Usually, it needs to be in White's hands.
White has 20 career rushes of at least 32 yards, and 12 of them resulted in touchdowns. In fact, he has 10 touchdown runs that covered between 40 and 76 yards. But in a perverse way, could his rushing ability work against his Heisman campaign? Last season, six quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards, so some voters may demand big passing numbers.
White has thrown for more than 1,600 yards in each of the last two seasons. In his career, he has had 21 completions of at least 34 yards, including eight for touchdowns. And he has completed at least 66 percent of his passing attempts in each of the past two seasons. Clearly, he's more than just a running quarterback.
Still, a national publication recently rated White's status for next year's NFL draft as the No. 7 prospect ? at wide receiver.
"I feel like I'm a quarterback," White said. "And I will be until I can't play that position."
At this time, no one doubts his ability to play quarterback. After all, he's 26-4 as a starter. Whether he can play it well enough to give the Mountaineers another shot at a national championship and get himself a chance at the Heisman remains to be seen.
"I'm just trying to be successful," White said. "I'm worried about the team's production and winning ballgames.
"We're definitely working hard and we're hungry. If we continue to do that ? who knows where we'll end up."
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
In September 1999, UCLA quarterback Cade McNown was heavily criticized after he was charged with illegal possession of a handicapped parking pass.
He pleaded no contest.
This year, the Bruins' quarterbacks legitimately need the passes. Last weekend, starting quarterback Ben Olson broke a bone in his right foot and will be lost for two months. This after starter Patrick Cowan was lost to a knee injury during spring practice.
AGGIES OPEN PRACTICE
Students, faculty and staff will have to show their IDs to gain admission. Former students with an Aggie ring will be allowed to attend.
Of course, cell phones, cameras and audio/video equipment are not allowed.
What five active Division I-A head coaches have posted at least one nine-victory season at three different Division I-A programs. (Answer at the end of the column.)
Name the college football programs for which these pro football Hall of Fame receivers played.
1. Lance Alworth
2. Raymond Berry
3. Fred Biletnikoff
4. Don Hutson
5. Steve Largent
6. James Lofton
7. Don Maynard
8. John Stallworth
9. Charlie Taylor
10. Paul Warfield
? Georgia's national championship hopes took a shot Monday with a season-ending knee injury to sophomore tackle Trinton Sturdivant. Sturdivant, who started 13 games at left tackle, will have reconstructive surgery.
? Ole Miss junior defensive end Greg Hardy, who led the SEC with 10 sacks last season, is out six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot. He was injured in a non-contact drill last week.
? The most popular T-shirt in Pullman, Wash., these days features an image of new Washington State coach Paul Wulff with yellow eyes and the message: "Hungry like the Wulff." Washington State went 5-7 last season under Bill Doba.
? Texas A&M's Sherman had moved Jorvorskie Lane, who has weighed as much as 285 pounds, from tailback to fullback. But Lane has gotten time at tailback recently because starter Mike Goodson has been slowed by a hamstring injury.
? Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom suspended safety Derek Pegues and linebacker Karlin Brown one game for violating the school's class attendance policy. They will be held out of the season-opener against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30.
? Texas Tech has set a school record by selling 41,080 season tickets. It's only the second time in school history Tech has surpassed 40,000 season tickets. The Red Raiders, coming off a 9-4 finish in 2007, are expecting to contend for the Big 12 championship this season.
? Kansas sophomore Carmon Boyd-Anderson announced he will transfer, although he's yet to decide where. Boyd-Anderson was being considered for a redshirt year because the Jayhawks are so deep at running back.
OLD SCHOOL ANSWERS
7. Texas Western (now known as UTEP)
8. Alabama A&M
10. Ohio State
The five coaches who have won at least nine games at three different I-A schools: Dennis Erickson (Washington State, Miami, Oregon State, Arizona State); Urban Meyer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida); Nick Saban (Toledo, Michigan State, LSU); Howard Schnellenberger (Miami, Louisville, Florida Atlantic); and Dick Tomey (Hawaii, Arizona, San Jose State).
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.