In the river valley of Southeast Ohio resides one of the fastest specimens in college football. Papi White only stands at 5’9”, but he injects a shot of versatility into Frank Solich’s high-octane offense at Ohio.
A former running back turned wide receiver, White plays the Tavon Austin/Dexter McCluster role, lining up in a plethora of different areas on the field. He’s involved in speed options, quick screens, and isn’t afraid to put the burners on for a streak or post route. His quickness and agility allow him to become a lethal downfield option, where he averaged 17.5 yards per catch in 2017.
A significant portion of his scoring plays originate dozens of yards away from the end zone. Two of the most notable moments in White’s college career include lighting up the Troy secondary for a 44-yard score in the 2016 Dollar General Bowl and corralling a 31-yard bomb down the left sideline in the 2016 MAC Championship in a near-upset of Western Michigan. Now a fifth-year senior, the longtime Bobcat has struck gold for 15 touchdowns during his long stay in Athens.
The Oklahoma native attacks in a variety of ways. He’s positively impacted Ohio’s offense by adding a much-needed dimension of speed to the rushing game, serving as a great foil to A.J. Ouellette’s power running style. In addition to his roles of producing yards from scrimmage, White’s been a steady component of Ohio’s special teams. Over the last three years, he’s fielded 34 punts and four kicks for a total of over 300 yards.
The second-team All-MAC selection was one of the premier receivers in the conference in 2017, and the numbers should only see a spike in the 2018. White’s counterpart Brendan Cope, the reigning team leader in receiving touchdowns, graduated from the program. Also, the team’s talented runner and Bahamas Bowl MVP Dorian Brown has exhausted his eligibility as well. With this exodus of skill position players in the offense, White could be called upon for an increased role for the Bobcats.
The development of a young star quarterback in Nathan Rourke should help White as well. Rourke, primarily classified as a scrambler-style QB, improved his comfort in the pocket and throwing touch in his inaugural season as a starter, culminating in a two-touchdown performance on 67% completions in the season finale.
At MAC Media Day, Ohio was selected an overwhelming favorite to win its first conference title in 50 years. If that happens to be the case, one underlying reason will be the dominance of the Rourke-to-White connection on Ohio’s topflight offense.