2009 NFL Draft: Is Pat White the Return of Slash?
Not since Kordell Stewart has there been this much debate over what position a player is best suited for in the NFL. Pat White is one of the most successful college quarterbacks of all-time, but as we near the draft, scouts are telling him to prepare for wide receiver, and he's pushing back.
It's understandable that White thinks he can play quarterback in the NFL. He can throw his 56-to-23 TD to Interception ration or his four bowl wins on the table and make a very good claim.
The number that has NFL scouts thinking otherwise is his record-setting 4480 career rushing yards, a testament to White's superior athletic ability.
White completed over 65 percent of his passes for each of his past three seasons at West Virginia, a feat Matthew Stafford never accomplished. On the other hand, White never attempted 300 passes in a season and his only 300-yard passing game came in his final career start.
Although NFL personnel encouraged White to showcase his receiving talents in the Senior Bowl he refused. As a quarterback he went 4-for-10 with 95 yards including a 39-yard touchdown pass. White also rushed three times for 31 yards.
Headed into the draft there are few believing that White has what it takes to earn a starting role in the NFL. The same was said about Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, a fifth round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, who earned playing time in a backup role as a rookie.
This season, the Wildcat offense opened the door for specially gifted players in the NFL. Guys who can run and pass were given the opportunity, many of them were former college or high school quarterbacks.
There is a lot of buzz that White will be utilized as one of these players, at least until he develops his receiving skills. He may also be placed as the emergency quarterback.
How should Pat White be used in the NFL though?
White has a deceptive running style. He is very upright in his gate, but quickly breaks down and uses his great lateral cuts to evade defenders. He has the speed to outrun linebackers and safeties and although he won't run you over, he turns the ball up-field for the extra-yard instead of going out of bounds.
These sound like attributes of a running back or the receiver you throw quick-screens and outs to. At the same time, maybe his athletic ability has kept us for recognizing his quarterback skills.
White shows great awareness in the pocket, using his quick, coordinated feet to get out of jams. He is best on the run, throwing well while rolling to his right or left.
At West Virginia, he operated primarily out of the shotgun and he showed some unfamiliarity under-center at Senior Bowl practices. This has been a constant criticism of shotgun-style quarterbacks entering the NFL.
His arm-strength is average, mechanically he is solid but his three-fourths delivery is a bit of a concern considering he is only 6'0" tall.
His measurables are slightly below NFL par but his will to win ranks among NFL elite. In bowl games White led his team to victories over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. He only lost nine games over four years, extremely impressive because he was the catalyst for offensive production on his team.
So, we can conclude White is a very talented runner and a situational passer. He is being billed at a receiver, although he's never caught a pass.
Pat White should be used the same way Kordell Stewart was used in Pittsburgh his first few years. Throw him some passes, let him throw some passes, and most importantly get him in open space.
Whoever drafts Pat White needs to get him on the field; he has a rare combination of skills that you don't come by every day. In college there are many runners who can throw well enough to play quarterback. Pat White is a quarterback who is athletic enough to play running back or receiver.
If Pat White refuses to play another position, a la Eric Crouch, or can't find his niche, there's always baseball, right?
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