Oklahoma Sooners signee DaShaun White was headed home from school when he answered my phone call. He needed to pack. He needed to prepare to travel north to Norman, Oklahoma.
White’s not traveling to party. He’s not traveling to pick out a place to stay. He’s not going to catch a Sooners softball game. He’s traveling to get mental reps.
“I gotta learn this playbook,” he said.
White wants to play. He doesn’t want to redshirt. He doesn’t want to wait around until the summer to get started going to work learning defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ scheme. He’s jumping at every chance to get closer to seeing the field in the fall. Right now that means he’s working at the position Caleb Kelly is slated to play this season.
“The WILL,” White said. “That’s where I’m working a lot at. But coach (Tim) Kish told me to sort of keep an open mind about it for the MIKE position, and even maybe in the future, some SAM.”
Watching White’s tape, it’s easy to see why he’d be asked to play all three positions. But he’s a natural space linebacker. He’s exactly the kind of hybrid who can wrap up and tackle tight ends but run with slot receivers. Earlier in his high school career, he thought about making a move to safety. Then he got bigger—a lot bigger. Still a teenager, White stands 6-foot-1, 220 pounds.
But he has to master the playbook first. He admits it’s not a tough task in April, especially because coaches are tied up with players already enrolled and on campus.
“It’s been pretty hard,” White said, “especially when you get out there. The coaches are all caught up in practice. So you can’t really sit down and learn (with them) and learn all the stuff. But I’m picking up on things day-by-day and as I go up there. And I know once I get up there in the summer I’ll have plenty of time. I feel like if I don’t learn the playbook by fall camp then that’s on me.”
However, he has help. All of the men who participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January know each other and have become a tight-knit group unto themselves. They’re so tight, in fact, White had a hard time saying which of them he was more excited to play with.
“That’s hard. That’s really hard,” he said. “I’m gonna go with two. I’ll say Bookie just because I’ve known him for awhile, and we’ve got to build up a pretty solid relationship. Having somebody with his fire on the field—I got witness it firsthand at the Army game. It was kind of like playing with another me at another position, which was different. He just brings such a high intensity, such a different sort of attitude. I think that’s going to be a big thing for the defense—just bringing back the attitude of the defense. It just hasn’t been what it used to be.”
The other is the man many Sooners fans were introduced to late, but once he was on our radar, we had to have him. Signee Michael Thompson was rated the second-best recruit in the state of Missouri and fourth-best in the country, according to 247 Sports. While Thompson is listed at 291 pounds, White said he believes Thompson weighs closer to 330 pounds today. And the hype is real.
“Whenever I saw him at the Army week, he and Ronnie (Perkins) were pretty close,” White said. “I believe Oklahoma wasn’t really pursuing him that hard. Or it was as an offensive lineman or something. I mean after watching him the first two days—he was unblockable the whole week. I mean he was unfair, and I’m sitting here trying to ask Ronnie ‘What can we do to get this guy’ because he’s that good. Luckily enough, we got him. He’s so athletic for his size it’s really not fair.”
Oh, how great it would be for the Oklahoma defense to become unfair after years of underperforming and recently becoming the butt of an SEC defensive coordinator’s joke. White and this 2018 class have the talent to change that. But first he has to learn the playbook.
LINK TO RJ’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH DASHAUN WHITE!