There's no LEAP program for Penn State students who intend to enroll mid-year, no opportunity to build a bridge that smoothly transfers one from high school to college. It's a dramatic transition for some, and not so much for others.
Antoine White will shortly discover that sudden transformation. A 6-foot-3, 250-pound three-star defensive tackle from Millville, N.J., White is one of four recruits who intends to enroll in January as a member of Penn State's Class of 2014. Dec. 6-8, he got as close to an introductory as he'll get to college life as a Lion when he took an official visit to the school.
"It was real good and nice, to get a taste of it before I get there and see what it's like," White said. "I feel like I connected real well with those guys who I'm going to be there with, and I don't think it will be that hard of a transition.
"I found out I'm rooming with De'Andre Thompkins, talked a lot with Coach [Bill] O'Brien and Coach [Larry] Johnson, and just enjoyed it. My parents did, too."
White's weekend host was Lion freshman defensive end Curtis Cothran. While the two were unfamiliar, future linemate Austin Johnson and White were not, as Johnson lived a town or so over in the Garden State (Richland).
The two have known each other for the better part of four years, and the duo of Cothran and Johnson didn't mince words when discussing the difficulty balancing academics and athletics may pose immediately.
Johnson was also frank when discussing the role he sees for the future tackle in blue and white. When White arrives, State's interior spots will be without Da'Quan Jones and Kyle Baublitz, both lost to graduation, leaving only Johnson, Brian Gaia, and Derek Dowrey still engaged in a battle for starting jobs. Northwest Mississippi juco tackle Tarow Barney is also enrolling early. The Lions also have a commitment from New York four-star tackle Thomas Holley, but he is not slated to enroll until the summer.
"He told me to keep my head level and realize the opportunity I have in front of me," White said. "We don't have a lot of depth at the defensive tackle with losing Jones and Baublitz, so I might be in good position in the spring.
"He and Coach O'Brien told me to keep good weight on, get in the playbook [once he arrives] and get it down during spring ball. A lot of coaches will tell you, ‘we'll get you right in here,' but they're telling four other people [the same thing]. What I like is that they are providing a very genuine [plan] to get me in here, work with me, and try to have me ready by the fall. That's the plan for me."
The tackle will room with Thompkins, the receiver from Swansboro, N.C.. The duo spent the weekend planning the odds and ends of who'd be bringing what to occupy space in their freshman dorm. The plan wasn't finalized yet, but one thing White will bring is an interest in yoga, something he began doing about a year ago to improve his game in an unconventional way.
"I didn't do it too much during the season, but for defensive linemen, you have to have good hips," White said. "We watched a lot of film on Jordan Hill and the way he flips his hips. That's real big, and the yoga helps with bend.
"That helps with coming off the edge and ripping with the hope of getting the edge. You have to have that bend to keep that balance, and it helps with mobility, too."
White was told to take a week off from strength and conditioning before hitting a final week or two of circuit lifts before entering Craig Fitzgerald's strength and conditioning program. The senior hopes the last bit of preparation helps him gets as close as possible to where he wants to be when he arrives.
Fortunately, even if it doesn't, he knows his class is as tight as can be. He learned that over the visit weekend.
"I know how close that class was in 2013 last year, and Coach O'Brien talked each year how we want to be closer and closer," White said. "We already have a close knit class, and we all talk a good bit."