While never held in the same esteem as his dynamic wide receiver running mate Amari Cooper, senior wide out DeAndrew White came to Alabama with the promise of changing the culture for Bama receivers and the potential to go down as a member of one of the most complete receiver corps ever assembled at the Capstone. While he may have fallen somewhat short of his potential as an individual due to myriad injuries throughout his Alabama career, White was one of a handful of pass catchers who ushered in the new era of Crimson tide air attack over the last several seasons.
Once a rarely used afterthought, White was part of the SEC's deepest group of wide receivers throughout his tenure in Tuscaloosa. However, as is sometimes the case with the brightest flames, his career only burned half as long due to the plague of injury and subsequent recovery. That said, White was an integral member of some of the Tide's most prolific offenses ever fielded, and as a member of the Alabama squad, he won two national championships (and had a chance to win two more.)
Let's review DeAndrew White Era of Alabama college football.
The High School Years
White was pried away from home state powerhouses by the recruiting prowess of Nick Saban and his staff, who were adamant that the Tide needed more explosive playmakers with the imminent departure of greats like Mark Ingram and Julio Jones. As a result, White was highly coveted by the Crimson Tide staff as one of the top players in the nation's richest football talent pool, Texas.
Being adorned as one of the top players in the state of Texas is quite an honor, considering the depth and breadth of football talent the state produces on an annual basis. While many figured White a lock for his hometown school, Texas A&M, few imagined that he would escape the Texas Longhorns if he did indeed decide to spurn the Aggies. However, Saban reeled in the speedy receiver as part of a strong 2010 signing class, and White was set to join the Crimson Tide.
White was everything the Tide was looking for in a receiver: good size (6', 192 pounds), great hands, acrobatic ability and speed...raw, unadulterated speed. White, in fact, was the 5A 200 meter champ in Texas, and his fleet-footedness translated well to the football field at North Shore High School in Houston. An Army All-American and SuperPrep All-American, White was tagged the number six receiver prospect nationally by SuperPrep, as well as the number seven prospect by Rivals. Tabbed as a member of the PrepStar Dream Team, White had 32 catches for 473 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. As a junior, he reeled in 34 receptions for a whopping 801 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was recruited by the Aggies, Longhorns, Oklahoma State, Florida, LSU and of course, Alabama.
The Early Years
Pegged as an early contributor due to his phenomenal speed and explosiveness, White still drew a redshirt in his first year on campus. However, as a redshirt freshman in 2011, White saw time in 12 games for the Tide offense. He transitioned well from the high school game, making an immediate contribution to an offense in need of speed and a legitimate defense-stretching downfield threat. In his first campaign, White had 14 grabs for 151 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, White displayed a quality that Alabama desired: he was "clutch" under pressure. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than by the following stat: six of White's 14 receptions resulted in first downs.
After a solid initial season as a member of the Crimson Tide offense, White was forecast to evolve into an even larger role due to his skill set and production. However, in a theme that plagued White for much of his college career, he was bitten by the injury bug, playing in only five games as a redshirt sophomore before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Ole Miss. However, in those five games, White showed his worth, racking up eight receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns, with half of his catches resulting in first downs. The highlight moment of White's 2012 came in the initial stanza, as he had a 52 yard touchdown pass off of the arm of AJ McCarron in the Tide's season opening win over Michigan.
White, the Upperclassman
Once again, after being proclaimed 100% recovered from the previous season's knee injury, hopes were high for the Alabama speedster. White entered the season as a member of the Tide's starting wide receiver rotation alongside Cooper. White made the most of his healthy status, reeling in 32 receptions (4th on the team) for 534 yards for an average of 16.7 yards per catch (highest on the team.) In addition to four touchdown receptions, 11 of White's catches were "explosive receptions" - receptions of 15 yards or more. Continuing his clutch theme, 20 of White's catches resulted in first downs for the Crimson Tide. White also saw time on special teams as a returner on the kickoff squad, returning three kicks over the course of the season.
The shining moment of White's 2013 came in one of the Tide's darkest hours...the humiliating loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Despite the Tide's loss and overall poor performance, White posted a career-high 139 yards receiving, including a career-long 67 yard touchdown catch from McCarron.
Heading into the 2014 season, White and Cooper posed as one of the most formidable receiving tandems in the SEC. With both wide receivers healthy, many forecast historic receiving numbers for a Tide offense that still had not settled upon a quarterback heading into the season. While Cooper filled his end of the bargain in a Biletnikoff-winning campaign, White was once again stricken with a rash of injuries that kept him sidelined for much of his senior season.
Despite missing six games to three different injuries (sprained toe against West Virginia, injured shoulder against Florida and a pulled hamstring against Mississippi State), White just kept coming back in a display of resiliency not often seen in the college game. And despite his season being cut nearly in half by various ailments, White's numbers were still impressive. The Texas flash had 40 catches for 504 yards and four touchdowns, which is impressive in light of the amount of playing time he missed and the fact that he was playing alongside the best wide receiver in the college game (and primary target of quarterback Blake Sims.)
While White certainly has the skill set which is coveted by many pro teams, his draft stock is somewhat questionable, in part due to his frequent bouts with injury throughout his college career. Durability is of critical importance in the NFL, and if there's been one weakness in White's game during his time at the Capstone, it's been his penchant for being sidelined.
That said, the same things that made White a desirable prospect for so many top-flight universities also make him attractive as a possible free agent pick-up following the 2015 NFL Draft. He has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40 (though his official time is 4.47) and has shown great flexibility and athleticism. While he's not Megatron in regard to his physical presence, he has nearly identical measurables to those that saw former Tide receiver Kevin Norwood picked up by the World Champion Seattle Seahawks in the past.
The main knock against White in this year's draft is the glut of wide receiving talent available. White is ranked 60th of 391 receivers by nfldraftscout.com, and with a history of frequent injury, one must wonder how much of a chance White really has in the draft. He is worth a free agent contract, as he has everything needed to be a workable NFL pass catcher. However, the injury issue will give teams pause, and rightly so.
DeAndrew White proved himself to be many things in his time in Tuscaloosa: a national champion, half of a dynamic receiving duo and a solid leader and teammate. Whether this translates to a career in football beyond Alabama remains to be seen. However, he has cemented himself in Alabama football lore as a member of the most explosive offensive ever fielded by the Crimson Tide, and one can only wonder what could have been if White could have stayed healthy throughout his career.