Defensive tackle Antoine White ended an extensive recruiting process this summer when he committed to Penn State. The 6'3", 265-pound Millville, N.J., prospect picked the Nittany Lions on July 1, days after visiting Happy Valley with his family.
White, an explosive interior defender, had 80 tackles (14 for a loss) and five sacks as a junior last season, according to Michael McGarry of The Press of Atlantic City. As a result, 247Sports' 2014 class rankings list him as the nation's No. 41 defensive tackle and No. 18 overall recruit from New Jersey.
He considered offers from an impressive list of programs, per 247Sports, including North Carolina, Boston College, Rutgers, Maryland, Duke, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Michigan State.
Bleacher Report spoke with the future Nittany Lion about the nuances of his recruiting experience and why he ultimately opted to commit to Penn State. He also shared how Bill O'Brien and the Penn State recruiting department is dealing with Paterno Era sanctions that are in place.
Bleacher Report: Prior to your commitment to Penn State, what kind of familiarity did you have with the program?
Antoine White: My parents and I visited Penn State and went up for a Junior Day in February. [At the Junior Day] there wasn’t much time to ask specific questions or get a tour of the academic stuff you really want to see, but on the individual visit, we got to see a lot of things and touch base with a lot of coaches.
B/R: What did you experience during that individual visit to campus (June 29)?
AW: I got to sit down with coach [Bill] O’Brien. I also got to sit down with my position coach—Coach J (defensive line coach Larry Johnson). I really got a feel for the coaches there. We spent about an hour talking about just academics, not even getting into the football aspect. When I left that day, I knew [Penn State] was my choice.
B/R: Once you realized you wanted to be a Nittany Lion, what was your next step?
AW: I told my parents and talked it over with my family. I talked to my [Millville High School] coaches about it and they were very supportive. I just didn’t want to wait any longer. I figured, why wait? Why play the recruiting process if I know I have the school for me?
B/R: It must’ve been a special moment for you and your family. What was their reaction when you told them your intentions?
AW: It was definitely a surreal moment, one I’ve waited for a long time. My parents are very supportive, no matter where I wanted to go, whether it was eight hours away or 12 hours away. So as I went through the recruiting process, they sort of went through it with me. They took me on all my visits, talked to all the coaches. They go through my mail and we sat down and talked about the whole process together. For me to be able to say ‘This is where I want to go. This is where I want to be. It’s over.’ was a great moment for my mom and dad.
B/R: Penn State certainly wasn’t the only team interested in you. What ultimately separated the program from the others you were considering?
AW: When you’re being recruited by a lot of schools, you can feel a lot of things and build relationships with a lot of coaches. As I sat down with Coach O’Brien and Coach Johnson, we didn’t even talk about football for about a full hour. It was just very personal questions about family and what we do in our spare time. I didn’t feel like they were trying to sell me anything at all. I felt they were very genuine coaches and my parents felt the same way. My parents going on visits with me means a lot because it’s easy to get wide-eyed when you take everything in at once. They can sit back and see everything for what it really is. They got the exact same feeling I did with Coach O’Brien and Coach Johnson.
B/R: What was the general message Coach O’Brien and Coach Johnson tried to get across to you during that meeting?
AW: Those guys spoke to me about academics and the characteristics they’re trying to bring in. Like I said, football was the last thing to be talked about. As far as if they cared or not, it was definitely there.
B/R: At this point, everyone is well aware of what happened at Penn State with the football program scandal centered on Jerry Sandusky. Sanctions are still in place for a few more years, but clearly, Bill O’Brien is looking to begin a new chapter for the team. How was that addressed during your recruitment process?
AW: We tried not to focus on that too much, but it was obviously a topic. The way they think of it, it’s not like turning a chapter; it’s like opening up a whole new book. The way the sanctions work for my graduating class, they would be over during my second season. As far as that affecting me, it really doesn’t. As far as how it played into my recruiting process, I may have thought about it once but that was [months before my commitment]. That didn’t have a real big role in whether I would chose them or not.
B/R: What are your thoughts on the current postseason ban (through 2015 season)?
AW: They still play 12 games and the bowl is actually just one game. That’s what I got to talk to Coach O’Brien about. I couldn’t really base my decision on one game. They still play 12 games in the Big Ten, at a high level, in front of 108,000 fans. As far as exposure goes, [the ban] isn’t really going to do much.
B/R: It seems like your recruitment really took off during your junior season. What do you think caught the attention of college coaching staffs?
AW: We had a really strong season as a team, so whenever that happens, you’re going to get more interest from college coaches. I put up some pretty good numbers and a lot of things look good on film, like my first step and things that teams look for. That really drew them in.
B/R: You still have a full senior season ahead of you. What’s your approach to the game now that you know you’re heading to Penn State?
How do you think the Bill O'Brien era has been at Penn State?
AW: My attitude still stays the same. My work ethic stays the same. If anything, I work even harder now that I know all eyes are on me. I still watch game film from last year up to this day. I definitely want to work on my pad level after contact, as well as my pursuit. There’s always going to be things to work on. That attitude definitely isn’t going to change. I still feel like the same kid I was a year ago without any offers. My work ethic won’t change.
B/R: How have you enjoyed seeing the Nittany Lions in action so far this fall?
AW: I think it's amazing to watch them work. It's great to see how the defensive line is dominating this season. It's going to be great to work with some established veterans.
B/R: Do you have any trips to campus lined up?
AW: I will take my official visit to Penn State on Dec. 7.