Recruit White puts weight issue behind him

There’s one really big issue Antoine White feels is very important that everyone knows about him.

“Remember, it’s 270,” the nearly 6-foot-3 17-year-old White says with a chuckle. “They’ve got me all over for weight. People have got my high school weight from my sophomore year, but I weighed in [recently] at 270. I don’t know why they keep putting it. I’ve told them ‘You’ve got me looking like a skinny guy. I’m 270 now.'”

White’s weight has been a weighty matter that has weighed heavily on his college recruitment. Despite his performance on the field the past three seasons at Millville High School in New Jersey, there are more legitimate questions about whether a 250-255-pound defensive tackle can make it in big-time college football than there are about one carrying 20 more pounds.

Penn State had those questions, and, with only 15 scholarships available for 2014, the Nittany Lion coaches needed to be assured White could handle the load.

“Their big concern was whether I could put on weight. This offseason, I did well with that, and I filled out really nicely, and I’m even faster than I was last year, so I did it the right way,” White said.

Lion coaches Bill O’Brien, Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson were sufficiently convinced that they finally offered White a scholarship on June 22 after evaluating him for months. White, in turn, made a verbal commitment to Penn State on Monday after taking an unofficial visit to University Park over the weekend.

White picked the Lions over Michigan State, North Carolina and Rutgers. Fifteen schools offered scholarships.

“A lot went into [the decision]. The fact that they are only four hours away is big for me and my family. It’s not super far away. For my family to see me play now, that’s less expense on them,” White said. “A lot went in with how I felt with the coaches. I really felt the coaches were genuine. After a while, you talk to so many coaches in the process, it all starts to sound like politics. I got a really good vibe from the coaches. They’re coaches I feel I can trust for four or five years.”

White said Penn State always was one of his favorite schools growing up, largely because of its defensive line play and the reputation of Johnson, the Lions’ defensive line coach.

“The number of players Coach J has produced at the next level is just ridiculous,” White said. “He’s put more defensive linemen in the [National Football League] than some teams have put players.”

In White, it looks like Johnson has a pretty good prospect with which to work to increase that number. As a junior, White made 80 tackles, including 14 behind the line of scrimmage and five sacks, on his way to being named his county defensive player of the year and making first team all-area for the Atlantic City Press. Millville was a South Jersey Section V quarterfinalist.

White’s been told he brings similar tools to those all-Big Ten tackle Jordan Hill possessed when he arrived at Penn State from Steelton-Highspire.

“He’s explosive off the ball, he uses his hands very well for a young player, and he has a great motor,” Thunderbolts coach Justin Durham said. “They’re getting a kid that’s really consistent that’s going to give a constant effort. He’s a kind also that in big moments plays well. We’ve had games where he’s played even better in the second half despite the fact that he’s a two-way starter. A lot of kids are getting tired at that point. He gets stronger.”

Durham has been starting White for two years and gave him varsity playing time as a freshman. Predominantly a three-technique defensive tackle, Durham also has lined White up at end on occasion to keep opposing offenses from game-planning too much on handling him on the inside.

Durham said White also brings intangibles to the table.

“Right from the beginning, you could see that he was a good person and was going to work hard,” Durham said. “He was our only junior captain last year. That says a lot about the rest of our team thinks of him, because they vote for captains.”

And Durham isn’t too worried about White bringing it at the table literally, either.

“As Penn State put a little more size on him and he gets a little bit bigger, I think he’s going to turn into a really nice college player,” Durham said. “He’s put on good weight. He works really hard in the weight room, and he’s done some work with a couple of his teammates on the side with a personal trainer. He’s done a great job of building himself up the right way.”

White also already has spoken with Penn State director of strength and conditioning Craig Fitzgerald. Intending to major in criminal justice, White likes to be active with his friends fishing, bowling or going to movies and spending free time with his family. He also likes the Philadelphia Eagles, something he joked he expects to catch a lot of flak about when he goes to college.

White’s been playing football since he was 7, but he’d already been into sports for a couple of year.

“Football was actually my third sport. I played soccer, then I played baseball. Then I started playing football,” White said. “I was a goalie in soccer. They had me running around as a midfielder, but I was so big I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t always this big. Believe me. I was a really skinny kid once.”

Not anymore, though.

“I’d like to contribute [early], but it depends how well developed I am when I come in,” White said. “I can’t wait to be there.”