Beyond the Commitment: Drake Whitehurst

While still a high school athlete in Portland, Ore., Cal's newest wide receiver commit Drake Whitehurst held aspirations of being a college hoopster, but after a productive two years at City College of San Francisco, he's ready to reunite with an old friend on the Memorial Stadium gridiron.

The latest California football commit Drake Whitehurst thought that he was going to be a college basketball player. He went on the AAU circuit, he spent hours in the gym, he went to camps -- the whole shebang.

"Football was the second of two sports -- basketball and football. I was actually into basketball a lot, did the whole AAU thing and traveled, trying to get a scholarship there, but also trying to do football," says Whitehurst. "Recruiting-wise, it was not so hot. I was just waiting around."

Whitehurst was a swingman for Portland (Ore.) Lincoln, a regular opponent of Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic -- the alma mater of a name familiar to Bears fans -- junior linebacker Brennan Scarlett -- who, yes, also played high school basketball.

"My good friend Brennan Scarlett, he went to Central Catholic, got that full ride out of high school and he was telling me all about it, so I've gotten a chance to check out the [Cal] campus," Whitehurst says. "We've known each other for a while. Our families are good friends, and we played AAU basketball and played from fourth grade through 10th grade about, so we know each other pretty well. He went to Central and I went to Lincoln, and I actually played a basketball state semifinal against him in 6A. We've crossed paths a lot, and now, we're back in the same spot."

Whitehurst sheepishly admits that it was Central Catholic who won that particular game of roundball.

"It was very frustrating," he laughs. "We were up at halftime by quite a few, and then they mounted an amazing comeback."

Now, Whitehurst will get to team up with Scarlett in Berkeley, bringing in some of those serious basketball hops -- 32 inches worth, at last count.

With that vertical leap, plus his 6-foot-6 frame, Whitehurst is well over 11 feet tall when fully extended in mid-jump -- something which made him invaluable for City College of San Francisco during its 10-2 season in 2012.

"It definitely helps," Whitehurst says of his springy disposition. "Certain aspects of basketball definitely translate over to football in various ways, so I appreciate being athletic enough to do both."

During the Rams' national title season in 2011, Whitehurst played in just six games, catching seven balls for 110 yards. In 2012, Whitehurst played in 10 of 12 games, catching 29 balls for 286 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 9.9 yards per reception, but CCSF still fell short of repeating as national JuCo champs.

"We went to the state championship game against Bakersfield, and we played them in state, but we lost," says Whitehurst. "It was just not a good turnout by the team. But, if we would have won that, we could have won the national title, because a committee picks who has the best resume of the schools with the best records, which is what happened the first year, when we beat Mt. S.A.C. It was disappointing, and I wish we could have done better, but it was a good season."

Whitehurst can't be too disappointed, though, as now he's headed to a Pac-12 school to play wide receiver. It's not hard to envision the 6-foot-6 Whitehurst bracketing the field with 6-foot-3 Darius Powe in red zone or goal line situations for head coach Sonny Dykes's offense, providing an effective counterpoint to stretch-the-field speed receivers like Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler, as well as big inside receivers like Spencer Hagan, Richard Rodgers, Jacob Wark, Maximo Espitia, Harrison Wilfley and the incoming Ray Hudson.

"With the cornerbacks I go against, it's pretty much a done deal on goal-line fades," laughs Whitehurst. "I hope I get to do it a couple times for Cal."

One of the biggest pluses for Whitehurst when it came to choosing the Bears was the new offense being installed by Dykes and Tony Franklin.

"Pretty much, they're going to put it in the air," he says. "Other schools are either run heavy or pass heavy, but I liked -- when I was watching his interviews and him addressing the public -- that they like to get it in the air and they're up-tempo and everything. Coming from City College of San Francisco, we have pretty much the exact same offense with the no-huddle and everything, so I feel really comfortable in that. I'm just excited to learn it and get into it and see where it goes."

In the Rams' offense, Whitehurst has caught primarily short hitch routes and of course, those goal-line fades, hence the lack of big yardage.

"That's the thing with our offense: there was a lot of quicks," Whitehurst says. "There were a lot of quick huddle-up plays and a lot of five-yard hitches, a lot of curls just to attack fast. We did take a couple shots down field, but a lot of it was keeping them on their heels and attacking them."

And keeping opponents on their heels, Franklin has promised, is what the Bears intend to do this season.

"There's a lot of ways to run a curl route, a lot of ways to run a screen route," Franklin told Cal Sports Digest last month. "There's a lot of ways to block in zone, but we believe there's a certain way to do it perfectly, and our goal is to master just a few things and dress it up and make it look like something different at different times to the defense, and then, it's just tempo. It makes it pretty difficult for them to defend, regardless of what we're doing, and basically anything should work.

"Sometimes we run it more than we throw it, and we never go into any games saying we want to throw the ball X number of times. We just basically say, ‘We're going to start off, and we're going to move the ball around, spread it around and make the defense run, make them hopefully eventually get tired, and then, once fatigue sets in, we can run the football.'"

Ryan Gorcey publishes Cal Sports Digest and writes about Major League Baseball for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @RGBearTerritory. Top Stories