Big Expectations For Big Time Playmaker Blair White

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Blair White is no Devin Thomas.
In at least one way, White has surpassed Michigan State's 2007 standout receiver, a second-round pick of the Washington Redskins.
Despite catching 79 passes for 1,260 yards last season, Thomas never had back-to-back games like the performances White had in comeback wins over Michigan and Wisconsin the past two Saturdays.
In fact, no Spartan since Biletnikoff Award recipient Charles Rogers in 2002 has matched White's contributions in consecutive triumphs.
If White can reach triple digits in receiving yards Saturday against Purdue, the junior walk-on from Saginaw can join Andre Rison, Derrick Mason and Rogers as just the fourth Michigan State receiver to reach that milestone three straight weeks.
"I've always seen him catch the ball very, very effectively," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "He's a very good athlete. He's a 36-inch vertical jump guy. He can run. And he's big -- 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. But what he has been able to do is find the seam, work in there and make the catch. I think he has always been a guy our quarterbacks have felt very good about going to."
White has felt pretty good about that, too, maintaining his confidence and outworking other players to gain playing time and surprising opportunities.
He had four catches for 143 yards, including the game's first touchdown from 61 yards out, in a 35-21 win at Michigan 10 days ago.
And just when people were starting to say, "White can't do that when a defense shadows him," he had career highs with seven catches for 164 yards in a 25-24 escape against Wisconsin.
"I've been productive the past two weeks, but guys have been stepping up all year," White said. "Mark Dell made plays earlier this season before getting banged up a little. B.J. Cunningham has made some clutch catches, too."
Part of that success is putting oneself in position to make big plays. For White, that meant convincing his teammates and his coaches that he belonged on the field.
"He has gotten opportunities and made great plays," Dantonio said. "He has made the most of all his opportunities. And I think what has happened, whether it has been Mark Dell or Blair White or Charlie Gantt, or B.J. or Keshawn Martin at times, they've picked up the slack with the loss of Devin. He caught 70-plus passes last year over 13 games. But there was a big drop-off after that."
With a strength-in-numbers philosophy, No. 18 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) has spread the ball around. White's 30 catches leads the team. But Dell has 27, Cunningham 25 and star running back Javon Ringer 20. That list doesn't include tight end Gantt, who has 14 grabs, including four for scores.
"There's no question that the depth at wide receiver is one of this team's strengths," White said. "And the competition for playing time has been good for all of us. We continue to push each other at practice."
If White can help push the Spartans past Purdue (3-6, 1-4) this week, rest up with a bye, then stun No. 3 Penn State in Happy Valley, his team will share the conference title. It also will reach the Rose Bowl for the first time in 21 years.


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