TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama is seeking a go-to receiver, a guy with the talent, the drive and the focus to handle high-pressure situations at a powerhouse program.
A guy like Julio Jones. Or maybe DeAndrew White? The Crimson Tide redshirt freshman is a long way from earning the designation held the past three seasons by Jones, a first-round NFL draft pick.
But he has been there, and he has done that. Like the game where North Shore High School in Houston desperately needed a touchdown to break the Texas state record of 72 regular-season victories in a row, held by ex-Tide quarterback Greg McElroy's alma mater, Southlake Carroll.
"With (26) seconds left, he caught a dig route and broke two tackles to score for us to win," North Side coach David Aymond recalled Friday.
Three years later, White is catching balls and the attention of his teammates and, more importantly, Alabama coach Nick Saban
during preseason camp. Alabama has more experienced candidates to fill Jones' role, such as Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks.
But Hanks has to sit out the first two games under the NCAA participation rule, and junior college transfer Duron Carter's academic status remains up in the air two weeks before the opener with Kent State.
Saban, meanwhile, has mentioned White several times since camp
opened. And that's a good thing.
"It's a real good indicator when his name keeps coming up that he's progressing very well," Saban said. "He's one of the most difficult guys that we have to cover. He's done a pretty good job of being consistent catching the football."
Tide linebacker Nico Johnson can attest to the hard-to-cover part of the equation for the 6-foot, 181-pounder.
"He's real fast," Johnson said. "A couple of times I tried to cover him, but that wasn't happening. He's really making plays out there and he can help our team this year. He's just working hard trying to get better."
Johnson shouldn't feel bad about being unable to keep up with White, who was the Texas Class 5A 200-meter champion in 2008.
Actually, Aymond has a story about that one too.
He said a University of Texas-bound senior had him by about 5
yards with 20 yards to go "and DeAndrew caught him."
"It's sheer will," Aymond said. "He refuses to lose. He has a hate for losing."
White didn't post huge numbers on the football field in a run-oriented offense. He caught 32 passes for 473 yards and nine touchdowns, a year after averaging 23.6 yards on 34 catches.
But he was rated the nation's No. 6 receiver prospect by SuperPrep. Aymond said North Shore has placed 154 players in colleges over the past 17 years, including 65 in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with guys currently at schools like Texas and Oklahoma State.
"He's one of the most prolific athletes we've ever had here," Aymond said. "He was the heart and soul of that track team in terms of leadership. He can really run. He's got great leaping ability. He's got great hands, and he'll make the play that you think he can't make and it will always be the most opportune time, when you need it the most. That's one of the attributes of big-time players. When it's on the line, that's whose number you want to dial."
Judging by the reviews of him in practice, he might receive some of those calls this season. Maze and Hanks have a big head start,
though. They've combined for 138 catches and 2,039 yards the past
three seasons while starting 42 games between them.
And Carter, a one-time Ohio State signee and son of former NFL
star Cris Carter, also could vie for the role. White has at least put himself in the mix.
"I'm very grateful and I'm very blessed," he said. "I just can't wait to get out there this season and put on a show."
He has already done that for teammates at Alabama's closed
practices. Now, he's no longer just a scout teamer helping prepare
the defense for the upcoming opponents.
Tide defenders are plenty familiar with White. Linebacker Dont'a
Hightower said his presence helped equip them for facing guys like
Florida's Jeff Demps.
"There was one play last year where we ran a tunnel screen,"
Hightower said. "He just kind of shook all 11 defensive players
out there. A lot of people don't really know about DeAndrew, but
he's out there in the lineup.
"I'm not sure if he's starting, but he's definitely going to be able to get the ball and help us out this year."