West Virginia's Kevin White is emerging as one of the top wide receivers in college football. He's having a phenomenal season and leads the FBS in receiving yards (1,020 on 69 catches with seven touchdowns), but isn't getting the credit he deserves from a national perspective.
However, the Mountaineers' upset of Baylor last week certainly introduced him to a larger audience. That win reverberated across the country, and not only did White post huge numbers again (8-132-2), he also made the signature play of the game, making a stunning TD grab on a play where he was interfered with by a defender.
That performance had to have many asking, "Wow, who is that guy?"
Anyone who takes a closer look at White's performance will find he's had more than 100 yards receiving in every game this season and a TD catch in all but one. That production hasn't just come against opponents that were totally overmatched. In addition to his big game against Baylor, White has lit up Alabama (9-143-1), Maryland (13-216-1) and Oklahoma (10-173-1).
White, a senior JUCO transfer, is being compared to Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, and while White has said the comparison stems from the hairstyle (dreadlocks) and jersey number (11) the two share, there's more to it than that. White is built similarly to Fitzgerald and has great hands to go along with a wide catch radius.
West Virginia is a surprise contender for the Big 12 title, and White is a big reason for the Mountaineers' success. He's not a household name, but he's on the rise and many more observers will be getting to know him with some high-profile matchups awaiting West Virginia in the second half of the season, including home meetings with TCU and Kansas State.
Here's a look at some other underrated offensive playmakers that deserve more attention in the season's second half:
Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong
Strong, who also is a JUCO transfer, hit the radar last season with his play for the Sun Devils. Some expected ASU to take a step back this year with the talent the team lost in the offseason and QB Taylor Kelly missing time with an injury, but Strong has stepped up his game for backup QB Mike Bercovici and ASU is in the thick of the conference title hunt again. Strong is 15th in the FBS with 689 yards receiving and made one of the most memorable plays of the year on what has become known as the "Jael Mary."
Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard
Shepard has been the first, second and third option at wide receiver for the Sooners -- defenses know the ball is going to him and still haven't been able to stop him. He's third in the FBS with 911 yards receiving. Oklahoma has a done nice job of moving him around to make it harder for defenses to get a bead on him. He's built more for the slot at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, but plays inside and outside.
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Lippett, 11th in the FBS with 786 yards receiving, started his career with the Spartans as a cornerback, but transitioned to wide receiver as a sophomore and the senior has made a quantum leap over the past year. He was not expected to become the No. 1 target for Michigan State, but he certainly is playing and carrying himself like a true No. 1. He's confident that he'll make plays, even when defenses double-team him.
Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
We hear a lot about QB Bo Wallace and Ole Miss' Landshark defense, but for a team rated No. 3 in the country, Treadwell doesn't get enough national attention. Treadwell's numbers (34-458-4) aren't as gaudy as the other receivers on this list, and that might have something to do with why he doesn't get his due. He has stepped up following the offseason loss of Donte Moncrief (third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts) and is a star on the rise as just a true sophomore.
RBs Tevin Coleman (Indiana), David Cobb (Minnesota) and Jeremy Langford (Michigan State)
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the incredible depth at running back in the Big Ten and note that some of the league's very talented runners are going largely unnoticed. The four leading rushers in the FBS come from the conference. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah are considered the top rushers in the league, but Coleman leads the FBS in rushing yards (1,192), with Gordon (1,046) and Abdullah (1,024) in second and third, respectively. Cobb (1,013), however, has just 11 yards fewer than Abdullah. Langford has been quietly sensational and has a very respectable 664 yards. Some really good backs will be left off the first- and second-teams All-Big Ten after the season.