This wideout can flat stretch the field

The high school football coach at Westside High School in Macon, Ga., gives VandyMania the inside skinny on Marlon White, an explosive wide receiver prospect who has committed to play for Vanderbilt.

Macon (Ga.) Westside High School coach Robert Davis has been coaching high school football for 38 years.  With an amazing 305-56-1 record as a head coach (.844 winning percentage), and having won 19 region championships and three state championships, Davis figures he knows a good football player when he sees one.

And Davis raves about Marlon White, his explosive senior wide receiver who committed to play football for Vanderbilt and Coach Bobby Johnson just before Christmas.

"Marlon is a tremendous receiver," bubbles Davis.  "He's got tremendous speed, tremendous reach.  He's made a lot of big bomb plays for us.  He can run the curls, and the outs and all that-- but he can go deep, and he beats most everybody he goes against deep.  He's one of the best receivers in the state of Georgia.  I think he's been undersold by a lot of other people.  I think Vanderbilt is going to come in here and get a peach.

"I don't know why a lot of folks didn't jump on him when they first saw him.  It might have been because we run the football so much.  [Vanderbilt Running Backs Coach Charlie] Fisher came by and saw him, and I think he realized how much talent Marlon had.  Charlie was on the sidelines for one of our games, and then things got hot.  The other folks were saying 'Maybe we might take him,' all those 'mights', you know?  And Charlie and Bobby came down here and said, 'We want you.'"

White, a three-year starter for Davis' Seminoles, is a versatile athlete who also runs high hurdles and low hurdles in track, and starts on the basketball team.  Much like another Vandy receiver commitment, Stephon Johnson of Marshall County, Tenn., White was largely overlooked by recruiters because Westside ran such a run-oriented offense.

"We run the football," said Davis.  "We block people."

Because of Coach Davis' emphasis on the run, White's 2002 stats-- 22 catches for 573 yards and five touchdowns-- won't bowl anyone over.  Nevertheless White will leave in May as the school's all-time leading receiver, with records for career receiving yardage (1,487), career catches (71), receiving yards in a season (605) and catches in a season (32).

"He also plays defensive back," said Davis.  "I told these cats that come by here, I've been coaching for 38 years.  I know a football player when I see one.  And Marlon could go to free safety and be a great free safety.  He played both ways for us.  He could be in the back of the defense, and they can't get by him-- or he can come up and tackle folks. That's something that a lot of people don't do any more.

"He could play wideout or defensive back, and I think be tremendous."

The colorful Davis, a high school coaching legend at nearby Warner-Robins High School before moving to Westside six seasons ago, coached the Seminoles to a region championship and an 11-2 finish in 2002.  In Davis' hard-nosed, run-oriented offense, White was also called upon to do his share of blocking.

"I moved him to wingback and made him help us block, because then we could make him do some routes and hurt people," said Davis.  "He never questioned it-- he blocked good for us.  He made some tremendous crackback blocks.  But that's not his cup of tea.  His cup of tea is running those gosh-durn long routes and skinny posts."

Davis compared White's style to that of Fred Gibson, the sophomore University of Georgia receiver whose Ware County team Westside played and beat three years ago.

"[Marlon] doesn't have Fred's quickness, although he's close," said Davis.  "But he has a lot more courage, and he's a lot tougher than Fred.  He'll come across the middle and he'll make the big catch for you.

"He was on the bubble with Georgia.  Georgia had him and a guy from Mississippi-- he was 5-10, and a burner and all that stuff-- but I guarantee you he's not better than Marlon.  LSU was interested.  Of course Navy, and a lot of academic schools were interested.  He made 1250 on his SAT.

"But I just can't say enough good things about him.  He's a very quiet kid, very humble.  Doesn't say a whole lot, just works hard all the time.  Marlon's a smart kid, and a degree from Vanderbilt really is important."

Westside is only a six-year-old school, and in February White will become the first Westside player to sign a Division I-A scholarship.  "But we've got three more behind him that are going to knock it out next year," Davis quickly added.

Among them are blue-chip running back Travis Evans, who gained over 2,400 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and scored 29 touchdowns this past season.

"Yeah, Travis is one tough son-of-a-gun," said Davis.  "[Recruiters] are already talking to him.  Now, I don't know if he'll go to Vandy-- he does fair in his grades, but not like Marlon.  I've also got a linebacker who's 240, and I've got an offensive tackle who's about 6-7, 250.  Everybody's after them."

White made so many big receiving plays in his career, Davis said, it was difficult to think of just one that stood out.

"Last year we were playing East Coweta, who was supposed to beat us in the playoffs.  In the third quarter the game was close.  We hit Top Stories