One More Shot

A chance to go out and have fun in front of a crowd. Another opportunity to show his coaches and teammates, as well as the fans, how much he is improving. Indeed, WVU quarterback Coley White knows exactly what awaits him when he takes the field tonight for the annual Gold-Blue Game.

Those two phrases, or different iterations of them, were uttered by White after almost every question about what awaits him in tonight's game.

The younger brother of Mountaineer legend Pat White will take all of the snaps in the scrimmage at Milan Puskar Stadium, which serves as the conclusion of the team's spring drills.

That was formally announced Wednesday, though it's almost been a certainty since the beginning of practice four weeks ago, as coaches have been extremely careful to do nothing to risk further injury to the broken foot of quarterback Geno Smith.

While that speaks volumes as to how much confidence the coaches have in Smith, it also has given White an opportunity that is a rare one in major college football -- to be the lone signal-caller to take reps in full-scale, 11-on-11 "team" drills throughout the spring.

It was a big adjustment for the soon-to-be third-year sophomore. He went from taking few, if any, snaps last season while working behind Smith and then-senior Jarrett Brown to taking all of them this spring.

With practice, they say, comes perfection. And while it hasn't been a perfect spring for White by any stretch, he has shown signs of improvement throughout the 14 practices completed thus far.

But he isn't ready to rest on his laurels just get.

"I feel like I did a pretty nice job," said White. "But I've got another opportunity to go out there and show it, so we'll see what happens."

"I think I progressed week by week and day by day," he echoed later. "But I have another day to get better, so I'm going to go out there and try to get better."

Indeed, the young West Virginia quarterback showed significant progress in several practices this spring. Two weeks ago, in the team's first 6:00 a.m. workout, White put on a particularly impressive show.

He threw a pair of near-perfect passes, gaining 45 yards on a well-delivered deep bomb to Eddie Davis and then outdoing himself with a couldn't-have-been-thrown-better 30-yard fade to Tavon Austin on a fourth-and-10 for a touchdown.

Perhaps even more importantly, he avoided making bad throws and the other mental mistakes that plague many an inexperienced quarterback. Some of the team's defenders had to ask teammates if it was White or Smith who had been throwing during the drills.

On days like that, White has been able to walk off the turf at Mountaineer Field with his head held high. Until this spring, those days had been few and far between for a player who has watched the competition for the starting quarterback job only grow and grow during his time in Morgantown.

"It felt good," said White of his best days. "It always feels good to know you've done good. But when you watch film, it's a different story. You see things you didn't know happened."

So the quarterback will take advantage of his night under the lights, trying to show head coach Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen that he is capable of running the Mountaineers' offense at a high level.

He will spend the night trying to further learn and polish his craft, but he also knows this could be the last time he ever takes reps at quarterback for WVU. Thus, he plans on having fun as well.

"I just take it as an opportunity to go out there and get better and have fun," said White. "I've got to be focused and know where to go with the ball. I can't make too many mistakes out there."

"But I just want to go out there and have fun, watch my teammates have a good time and watch people make plays."

Thus, White's self-proclaimed goal for tonight is a simple one: to "just be successful" in whatever plays Mullen, who also serves as West Virginia's quarterbacks coach, calls; to "know what to do with the ball" on every play.

And the signal-caller is quick to proclaim that he has no issues with taking all of the snaps in the game today.

"If you start, you take every snap of the game, so it's something you've got to get used to, and just go have fun and play," he said.

Of course, he neglected to mention the fact that starting quarterbacks typically don't have to take all of the snaps for both teams in games.

"I'll probably have to get some ice," White admitted with a chuckle. "But I think I'll be alright."

For now, the questions about whether White will still be in Mullen's meeting room this fall (or whether he will move to that of Chris Beatty and the slot receivers) will have to wait.

For at least one more night, he has the chance to prove his doubters wrong, to improve on his play, to do what he hoped to do when he came to WVU -- to quarterback the Mountaineer offense.

"I feel pretty good," he said, summing up his thoughts on the spring as a whole. "(The Gold-Blue Game) is just another chance, another opportunity for me to go out there and get better."


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