Senior quarterback Jason White is going through his second ACL rehab and he admits it has become almost old hat to him. That doesn't mean he is still not working 70 hours a week, as hard as he can, to make it back for the 2003 season. It just means he is somewhat bored with all the rehab and ready to play some football.
White has spent a great deal of time in the weight room and has built himself into a 232-pound quarterback. White is not sure he will play at that weight next season, but the fact that he is even talking about playing is a testament to his amazing willpower.
In reality, White has spent as much time in rehab as he has under center for the Sooners, yet he has twice been named the starting quarterback at OU. That statement, in itself, tells you what kind of player the Sooners believe they had in White the last two years. Now, the key question is what do the Sooners coaches still have in White.
White is one of the mentally strongest players I have ever dealt with at OU. He it totally focused on getting healthy and he is not worried about what the coaches are thinking. White feels if he is healthy he will be the starting quarterback next year. I had a chance to sit down and talk to White on Thursday before he hit the practie field for seven-on-seven drills to talk about his second comeback, and about his chances to be the starting quarterback in 2003.
JH: Why are 7-on-7 passing drills so important to an offense in the off-season?
JW: "As far as the passing game, it is just real important for the quarterbacks and the wide receivers to get used to each other. It is real important for the receivers to learn the new routes and go in and get better at the old routes. As far as the quarterbacks, it is just being with your receivers and playing catch every day. Just knowing who runs certain routes and knowing which way they run them — that is a real big key for a quarterback."
JH: Since there is no live tackling or a pass rush it seems a little far-fetched sometimes that 7-on-7 passing drills can mean so much to a team?
JW: "It is really amazing how much they help a passing game really. It is also important to the pass defense as well. Remember, not only are the skill guys on offense getting to know each other, but the linebackers and defensive backs on defense are getting some great work in as well in the passing game. For me, it just gets back to getting to know my receivers. When I scramble I need to know what a particular receiver is going to do instead of second-guessing them. I need to know if they are going to break, go deep, or come back short. It is just things like that which can really help out a passing game."
JH: How many throws does it take to really get to know your receivers?
JW: "It certainly takes longer than a few days. I don't know the exact number of throws, but it certainly takes a while. You have so many different receivers and you have to learn how each particular player plays, so it takes a long while. I would say that it probably takes longer than a year to really get to know your receivers."
JH: Is it safe to say that each receiver is in his own little world?
JW: "Yeah, without question each receiver has his own way of doing things. They may all run the same yardage on a route, but they all come out of the break a little bit differently. Some come out real aggressively and some don't. Some are better at releasing on long routes. That is a key to what we are doing right now, we find out who runs the long routes better and who gets out of their routes better. That is the main reason why we do this every day."
JH: I am going to guess the better you know your receivers the easier it is to call plays?
JW: "I think that is more for the coaches to put together, but it does help some in my audibles. They also know who runs different routes better. If I have a certain receiver in man coverage and he is a good streak runner, then I might audible to that route and see if we can get a quick score. If there is a set play, the coaches are running it for a reason. Every receiver is going to run the right route, it is just a matter of whether they can come out of their break as well a different receiver. That is just something as a quarterback that you have to know."
JH: How competitive are the 7-on-7 drills? Do you guys really get after it?
JW: "Our defense they doesn't take it easy in any drill and they always want to dominate. Even in 7-on-7, when we get a deep ball on them or something, they kind of look at each other and then they look at us. They get mad about it, but we have a smile on our face because we beat them on that play. To be honest, when we do make a big play against our defense, or move the ball down field against them, we feel real good about it because we know we just moved the ball against the best defense in the country.
We are out here right now just trying to learn more about our schemes and about our personnel. There are no coaches out here so this is totally different than a regular practice. It is more relaxed and we try to have a good time, but at the same time everybody is being competitive. We all know that every job is open, so they are all competing trying to get better."
JH: Who organizes the 7-on-7 drills?
JW: "I really think 'Hype' (Josh Heupel) organized them back in day one during Coach Stoops' first year. Since Josh left it has been passed on to different quarterbacks. Most of the time it is the starter ,or in our case the past couple of years it has been Nate and me who made most of the calls. I guess I make most of the calls now, but the other quarterbacks do this as well. You just have to take charge and let everybody know what time you are going and usually tell everybody how long we are going to go."
JH: So, it is up to the quarterbacks to get both the offense and the defense at the drill?
JW: I guess you can say it that way. The defense has its leaders that help organize their side of the ball, but I have called them many times as well. You try to work around everybody's schedule. We try to find out when the defensive guys can be there and we pretty much know when the offensive guys can show, and mostly that is up to the quarterbacks to make sure everybody is going to show up.
JH: You look so much bigger than you were last year. You look like a linebacker, you are so big through the shoulders and chest. Would you say that your weight lifting is going well?
JW: "You have to remember just about all I could do was lift weights when I hurt my knee. Lifting weights is just something I have been doing to try to stay in shape while I have been rehabbing my knee. I have been lifting a lot through the rehab, because as soon as my rehab was over I would head to the weight room and get a lift in on the rest of my body. My body is a lot stronger and it feels a lot stronger than I was last year. This year I have started eating right and that has really helped. Last year I would stop on the way home from school at McDonald's and pick me up a Big Mac or something. This year I am watching what I eat and watching my weight to make sure I don't get too big and to make sure I don't get flabby."
JH: How is your knee coming along?
JW: "My knee is coming along great. So far so good. I haven't had any trouble with it — just a little soreness here and there. That is normal when you are coming back from an ACL tear. I have been going through our normal workout routine. I am running again, but sometimes I take a day or two off from running and I swim instead. As far as doing all my drops and things, I have been doing those for sometime. The knee has been great and hopefully I can get released and go after it totally in spring ball.
JH: Are you realistically optimistic that you can get a doctor's release in time to go through complete spring drills?
JW: "That is my goal. I want to at least get a couple of scrimmages in before spring ball is over. Hopefully, I will play in the Red/White game. I need the reps and I need to get all the action I can get. If I can do that I can end the spring on a good note and keep going over the summer."
JH: I feel for you a great deal because without the injuries you would have been a three-year starter at OU. Instead, you haven't been able to make it through the season and you have had to watch from the sidelines. So you have actually been rehabbing as much or as more than actually playing football. You need to get as much time under center to get the feel back on the field don't you?
JW: "Yeah, that is right. You can go out at practice and watch film as much as you want, but it is not the same as playing in an actual game. It is totally different and the speed of the game is totally different. Everything is so much different that it just helps to be out there whether it is practice or a game, but the game reps really count and they help the most."
JH: Since you lost your starting job due to injury do you feel if you come back 100 percent that you should be given your starting position back at the end of the spring?
JW: "I don't think that is any big deal really. Coach (Bob) Stoops and Coach (Chuck) Long have both said the job is wide open. I am just going to go through spring like I have the last two years and see what happens. I had two great battles with Nate (Hybl) and now there are three more quarterbacks this spring. I guess I am going to take the same approach. I have more competition this year, but that is why you come to OU, to compete against the best."
JH: Nate Hybl has said nothing but great things about you and the relationship between the two. You two have been through some tremendous competition over the last couple of years. Just how good is the relationship between you two?
JW: "It makes me feel great to hear Nate say good things about our relationship. We have always had a good relations and I know that people don't think that because we have been competing against one another. We both knew that when we came to a school like Oklahoma that you were not just going to be handed a job. I think knowing that is what kept our friendship going because we knew that we were competing for the same job. Our lockers were always side-by-side and there was really no way to avoid being friends. Even when I was playing Nate would help me out a lot on the sidelines and when he was playing I would help him out. You could tell that we were there for each other and it worked out in the end for him. He sure shut a lot people up.
JH: I am sure the fact Nate had such a great year made you feel pretty good?
JW: Yeah, it was great for Nate and the team. The only other thing I wish I could add what that I was playing. I am glad that Nate was able to get his shot and run with it, especially as much criticism that he took from the media and the public. He went out and was ready to play. He did his job.
JH: What do you think of your receiver corp now that Curtis Fagan, Antwone Savage and Trent Smith have graduated?
JW: "Here at Oklahoma, we are always replacing people. Last year we had to replace some great players on defense and we were able to do that. The guys on offense are going to be missed, but we have other guys who are talented and who will step up and take over their position. I am not worried about it at all. As long as every one of them shows up for pass skell everyday, and show that they are eager to learn and get better then I will look forward to playing with them."
JH: What do you think of your competition at quarterback?
JW: They are all good quarterbacks. They are all fundamentally sound, and the thing about younger quarterbacks is that they are more eager to play. That kind of spices up the competition a little bit. I will just have to take it one practice at a time. Hopefully, whoever plays will be the best quarterback and best player.
JH: Everybody always talks about how hard the young quarterbacks throw the ball. Nate Hybl said that you two used to throw the ball that hard when you were young quarterbacks as well. I guess the 5000 more throws during your career has caught up to you a little bit?
JW: It seems like ever since I got to college I really thought I could throw the ball hard. Over the years I don't know what happened, but it just seems like I can't throw hard any more. I know that isn't really the case and I can still put a little something on the ball when I want, but it seems like my fastball isn't as fast anymore. It is all relative, but I used to throw harder. In our offense it is all timing anyway. You have to have a strong arm and mine is plenty strong, but you also have to have a lot of touch in certain situations.
JH: I just noticed the linebackers are here, are they allowed to blitz in these drills?
JW: "They blitz, but they can't touch the quarterback (Jason says laughing). The quarterbacks organize these drills, so we play by our rules. They can't touch us in practice either, so I come in here worry free.
JH: Out of all the players that I must say that I am pulling for to get a little luck it is you. You are so mentally strong that it is unbelievable how well you have handled your setbacks. Do you feel you can come all the way back and be the starting quarterback at OU again next season?
JW: Thanks for saying that. I am just hoping that I can get lucky enough to play a full season. If I can do that I feel good things will happen for me. To answer your last question — yes, without question I feel I am going to be the starting quarterback next season. The competition is going to be tough, but I believe in myself and my abilities and I am going to win the starting quarterback job for next year."
White determined to win back QB job in 2003
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