ATLANTA (Sept. 12) — With Georgia Tech junior wide receiver Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.), what you see is what you get.
“There’s not too much to know about Dez White,” said Tech’s all-America and Biletnikoff Award candidate. “What you see on the outside, that’s the kind of person I am. I mostly keep to myself a lot of the time. I like peace and quiet. That’s something I find joy in.”
There’s nothing peaceful about the mild-mannered White on the gridiron, and he’s definitely not quiet. And there’s certainly been more of him to see for opposing defenses so far this season as White has expanded his offensive repertoire.
Expect more of the same from White as the Yellow Jackets (1-1) face Central Florida (0-2) in their home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field.
“We can put the Florida State game behind us because it’s in the past,” White said. “We’re going to go out and prepare for Central Florida this week so we will be ready by Saturday. We feel like we can win the rest of the games on our schedule, and that’s what we’re going to try to go out and do.”
In Tech’s two games to date, White has found himself in a more expanded role in the Jacket offense. To date, he leads Tech with 161 receiving yards on six catches for a 26.8 yards per catch average. He is averaging 31.5 yards on kick returns and has rushed the ball twice for eight years.
A year ago, White was one of Tech’s biggest unknowns as the Jackets entered the 1998 season needing a playmaker to emerge at wide receiver. White did and established himself as one of the nation’s top deep threats in the process. Now he’s the mainstay in an emerging corps of receivers with a few added twists.
“Last year was really a confidence builder for me,” said White of his school record-setting campaign of last season. “This year my role has expanded on offense with me coming out of the backfield and doing some different things. Coach (Ralph) Friedgen is moving me around a lot.
“I’m trying to pick up where Charlie Rogers left off last year. He was a very versatile player, and he did a lot of things for our offense. I guess I’m assuming that role since he left.”
In games against Navy and Florida State, White has found himself lining up at his customary receiver position, as a running back in a wishbone set and even some as a slotback.
“We have to watch ourselves that we don’t over do it,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “It’s taxing enough when he is at receiver. We like doing different things with him, but we have to temper what we do a little bit.”
White and the Jackets have benefitted from White’s versatility. On his career-long 80-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of Tech’s tilt with the Seminoles, White came out of the backfield.
“We were in the wishbone, and it was a play action pass,” White said. “I came out of the backfield, and the guy that was covering me ran into Kerry Watkins (Leplace, La.), who was running a crossing route. Everything just opened up, and Joe (Hamilton) (Alvin, S.C.) hit me with the ball.”
All eyes are on White wherever he lines up, thanks to his 46 catches for 973 yards and nine touchdowns of a year ago. His 973 yards was a Tech record for receiving yards in a season and his nine scores tied a school mark. He also displayed dangerous abilities as a kick returner, averaging 26.2 yards per return and bringing one back 100 yards against Maryland. Coming into his sophomore season, however, White had not caught a single pass, but had been used extensively as a kickoff return specialist.
“This year I have more composure on the field,” White said. “Last year I was just going out there and trying to make a name for myself. This year, I have more composure and more confidence in not only myself, but also my teammates. With my experience from last year, I think I’m more fluid on the field because I’m starting to understand the game more.
“I knew I had the ability to do the job, but I didn’t think I would have the opportunity so soon.”
With the numbers he put up a year ago, White can expect to see more double teams in pass coverages this season. No problem, he says, because he isn’t Tech’s lone threat downfield.
“I’ve been saying all along that other guys are going to get a chance to step up,” White said. “I think our receiving corps really stepped up against Florida State. Coach O’Leary challenged us because in the past we haven’t been able to get any type of passing game going against their defense. We opened them up a little bit and had a great offensive game. I think that’s just the beginning of what our receiving corps is capable of.
“Even when I saw some double teaming in the Florida Sate game, that’s when Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) stepped up. I have complete confidence in those guys that when I’m drawing double coverage, they will be able to get open. I’m confident that Kelly, Kerry and Jon Muyers (Stone Mountain, Ga.) will all be able to get open.”
Even if White can’t get open, look for the Jackets to keep getting the ball in his hands in more creative ways.
“I want the ball,” he says. “That’s just the type of person I am. Whatever way I can get the ball, I’ll take it.”