The story has such a happy ending it almost sounds scripted.
The date: Dec. 8. It’s another sunny afternoon in the Sunshine State.
In Tampa, Willie Taggart has just been introduced as the coach at the University of South Florida and is concluding his first news conference. At the same time, an hour east in Orlando, University School quarterback Mike White is walking off the field at the Citrus Bowl after having engineered a rally from a 17-0 deficit to win the Class 3A state championship game.
Moments later when White and his teammates are on the bus preparing to head home with the school’s first state title, White’s father’s phone rings. It’s a USF assistant. He has a scholarship offer in hand for White. Twenty minutes later, the 6-5, 195-pound White calls back and becomes Taggart’s first USF commitment.
“It was indescribable,’’ White said. “The state game in general was the greatest feeling. But to top it off with the commitment was just awesome. Like a dream come true.’’
Before USF offered a scholarship, White, a standout All-Broward pitcher (9-2, 0.43 ERA) had an offer from only one Football Bowl Subdivision program: Marshall. His other offers: Eastern Kentucky, Western Illinois and Stetson.
Since committing to USF, he said Louisiana Tech, Houston and Mississippi State have tried to jump in. But it’s too late, White said, the Bulls have him all wrapped up. And he might be the program’s quarterback of the future.
“If you would have told me when I was growing up I would go to school for football, I thought you would be crazy,” White said. “I didn’t play football until high school. I didn’t start at quarterback until this year. USF is a great opportunity for QBs right now. With a new staff, it’s a level playing field. I’m confident in my abilities and feel I have a good chance, as good as anybody, right now for a starting job.”
White completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,187 yards, 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions in leading the Suns to a 12-0 season. Earlier this week, the Suns were awarded MaxPreps’ Minuteman Trophy after finishing the season as the website’s small-schools national champion.
Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services said White could play early at USF. The Bulls finished 3-9 last season.
“New coaches always tend to want to go with their own guys,” Fishbein said. “White is more of a pro-style QB that Taggart wants.
“He’s a late bloomer who was very raw. He started very inconsistent, but as the team started to grow, he got better. He could be a two-, three-year starter there.”
White is one of 24 Bulls commitments, including three from Dade and Broward. The class is rated 51st overall by 247Sports.com, with 18 three-star recruits. The Bulls recently picked up one of Dade’s top athletes in Miami Southridge’s Lamar Robbins (6-3, 188 pounds), who committed to the program over the weekend.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before USF is back to being what it was a few years ago,” Fishbein said. “They went from a class that was uncertain to a class that is all of a sudden pulling in better kids the previous staff couldn’t pull in. Taggart is a good coach.”
Central Florida, which had the better 2012 season with a number of former Miami-Dade and Broward recruits, has 15 commitments, but none from South Florida.