In His Element

One might confuse Patrick White as being a reserve defensive player if one heard just snippets of his on-field talk.

"Who got that, who broke that up?" White asks defensive backs coach Tony Gibson. "Larry," Gibson said, referring to cornerback Larry Williams.

"Nice! Nice play, Larry. Way to be there, get that," White says.

Encouragement from the strangest source, no doubt, Williams just having batted away White's roll-out pass attempt. The pattern continues, White giving nods to Mortty Ivy for several pass breakups and to Antonio Lewis for a forced fumble. He lauds linebackers for tackles, corners for good coverage, lineman for the pass rush. He's a constant congratulator, which might seem a peanut-brained idea, just one shell short of nuts, considering White plays quarterback.

And it's not as if this is a rookie, some new kid who's trying to cajole the vets into taking it easy, maybe letting up on the skill slot player. This is a Sugar Bowl-winning quarterback, one who rallied West Virginia past Louisville with the help of another frosh, who beat every team he faced as a starter, and who threw for 828 yards and eight scores while also running for 952 and scoring seven times on the ground. That's balance mixed with speed, a scary sight for any defense.

Heck, White, in a yellow jersey that signifies no contact, could probably talk all he wanted until head coach Rich Rodriguez told him to shut up. If a defender hits him, as Quinton Andrews did, the offense immediately comes to his aid. He has 10 bodyguards out there, all ready to be physical with anyone who tries the same with White.

But one suspects this constant positive vibe from the southern gentleman is simply a young player growing into a leader. It's not just the defense that gets the congrats – though it is the lone unit to avoid ridicule from the third-year player – because the sophomore-to-be is praising his side, too, while carefully pointing out problems, things to be corrected, missteps here, footwork there.

It's a far cry from where White was just this time last season, when he likely had yet to perform well enough to think he could do such things and when Rodriguez had to note that "he's actually a lot more vocal on the field than he is with you."

But this is now the "it" guy in WVU's offense. It is his starting spot to lose, his name, paired with Slaton's, on the lips of defensive coaches around the Big East. How do you stop a double-threat, and how do you do it when that threat now earns the respect of teammates and coaches and is gaining an even better understanding of his mandatory leadership role and how to handle it?

Take it from tailback-turned defensive back Pernell Williams, who has a unique perspective, having played with White on offense and against him on defense.

"Pat's, I don't know, maybe the next Vick," Williams said. "He's just a special, special player. He can run it, throw it. He is tough to play against. Fun to play with, though."

It says here that the first part of that remark gets dismissed because White is no Vick. He doesn't stomp on players, break laws, carouse around with underage girls. But that quietness the media all struggles with – normally because we don't ask solid questions, but simply make a statement and stare, hoping for a great response – though still present in interviews, is totally gone on the field. This is not to write that White is suddenly an Ali clone, a brazen blabbermouth whose talk does nothing. The only Lip White deals with is the fat one he gave to Louisville.

It's all purposeful chatter with White. It's motivation and instruction, mixed in with a bit of confidence, but never cockiness, quite refreshing in this day of all talk, but little play. White is, in short, the new leader, and West Virginia's offense could flourish because of it.

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