White among 10 highest-ranked players in North Carolina history
Interestingly, six of the nine players in North Carolina's all-time top 10 (KJ Henry has yet to commit) left the state, or will be leaving the state in White's case. And of the seven players who are old enough to have been drafted, five were selected. The two who were not drafted both stayed in-state, with one at NC State and one at North Carolina.
So where does White stand among the state's best ever as high school prospects? Here’s a look at the top 10 all-time.
The skinny: After initially having North Carolina, N.C. State and Florida in the lead, it was Clemson which jumped to the forefront. Despite a late push from N.C. State to try and keep him home, Lawrence committed to the Tigers. Lawrence enrolled early last year at Clemson and immediately made an impact. Finishing his true freshman season with 62 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks, expectations are already through the roof for Lawrence in 2017.
Farrell’s take: Lawrence was a massive high school prospect, tall and big, who had exceptional pass-rushing moves and worked off contact extremely well for a taller interior lineman. He had light feet, always had a counter for whatever an offensive lineman threw at him and was well coached in the nuances of the position. He finished as our No. 2 overall but was No. 1 at one point and the NFL scouts are drooling.
The skinny: Humphries named a top five of Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, South Carolina and Clemson in early July, but then soon after surprised some by suddenly ending his process with a commitment to the Gators. Humphries experienced mixed levels of success during his three seasons in Gainesville, but despite his lack of consistent production, he was still selected with the No. 24 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2015. Humphries did not play a single snap as a rookie, but saw time at right and left tackle last season and this year looks ready to become the starter on the left side.
Farrell’s take: Humphries was a very young prospect for his grade in high school and had off-the-charts athleticism and upside. His footwork was amazing, his ability to recover and re-set was astonishing and he had a great frame to fill out. He looked like a big, athletic tight end playing tackle. While he had to work a bit on his aggressiveness, there was no question he would succeed at the next level and be a potential first-rounder. Injuries hurt him a bit and he’s still finding his way in the NFL, but he’s one of the most athletic tackles I’ve ever scouted.
The skinny: Allen initially committed to Alabama, however, the possibility of playing with his brother, Zach Maynard, who was in the process of transferring out of Buffalo, turned everything upside down. After both took an official visit to Cal in the days leading up to National Signing Day, Allen officially flipped his commitment to the Golden Bears. Despite setting receiving records at Cal, Allen slipped to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft due to concerns regarding a knee injury. San Diego’s gamble on Allen has mostly paid off, as he has been very productive when healthy. However, a kidney injury in 2015 and then torn ACL in 2016 have slowed his progress.
Farrell’s take: We saw Allen as a safety at the next level and initially so did most schools. But when he made it clear he wanted to play wide receiver, even defensive back guru Nick Saban was fine with that. However, Allen was destined to play with his brother and Cal became the place. I had my doubts regarding how special he could be at wide receiver, especially considering how fluid and effortless he made playing safety look, but he proved to be an amazing wideout as well. Everything he did was so easy in high school, from picking off or catching passes to running down plays, he remains one of the most fluid athletes I’ve seen and the epic fan meltdown when he de-committed from Saban was memorable.
The skinny: While White considered several schools, Georgia, Clemson, Alabama and North Carolina were the four that pulled away from the pack. A late push by the Tar Heels, which included a visit to campus in early June, closed the gap, but at the end it wasn’t enough to beat out the Bulldogs.
Farrell’s take: Edgerrin James? Arian Foster? Those are the two recent NFL running backs that White reminds me of. The Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson comparisons will be made, but he runs with more natural leverage and body lean, and has a different running style than either. He’s one of the top five or six running backs I’ve scouted in my career.
The skinny: Bullard took official visits to Florida, Clemson, South Carolina and Nebraska before committing to the Gators. He occasionally showed his potential at Florida, but never seemed to consistently put it all together until his final year. His improved play was enough to get him drafted in the third round by Chicago in 2016; however he failed to make a serious impact during his rookie season. After finishing with 15 tackles and one sack in 2016, Bullard is in a position to earn more playing time this fall if he has a strong summer camp.
Farrell’s take: I remember the first time I saw Bullard in person and I immediately felt he was a five-star prospect. Between his impressive film, his basketball feet and build and superior athletic ability, he was a special prospect. But the best part was that he was still learning how to play the game and his ceiling was so high. Bullard had zero idea at the time how good he could be and was stunned when informed he was a five-star prospect. He took that work ethic and attitude with him to college and now to the NFL. I thought the Bears got an absolute steal here, but he’s had a slow start.
The skinny: Pressley took official visits to NC State, North Carolina, Florida State, Oklahoma State and Virginia, despite being considered a heavy Wolfpack lean from the start. He trimmed his list down to the Wolfpack, Tar Heels and Seminoles before committing to NC State. After a productive final two seasons in Raleigh, Pressley was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by New Orleans. In his one full season with the Saints, which culminated in the Super Bowl, Pressley totaled 20 tackles. He then saw time with Houston, Carolina, Denver, Chicago and Indianapolis before seeing his playing days come to an end prior to the start of the 2012 season.
Farrell’s take: Pressley was a superior athlete for his size with plenty of room to grow as a high school prospect, but he took a while to develop and never reached his full potential. He does have a Super Bowl ring, however, so all was not lost, but I expected so much more from his career in college and beyond because of how quick and explosive he was off the snap in high school.
The skinny: Spikes, who was considered a Florida lean, took official visits to Gainesville, Virginia Tech and Alabama before committing to the Gators during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Spikes had a memorable career with the Gators, being named First-Team All-American twice, while helping the Gators to two national championships. Selected in the second round by New England in 2010, Spikes had four productive seasons with the Patriots and then one with Buffalo. He then had a short return to New England, which ended in his release after a possible hit-and-run. After a season away from football he spent the 2016 season back with the Bills. He is currently a free agent.
Farrell’s take: Spikes was a monster in high school, a tall, long and massive inside backer who thumped everyone when he was coming downhill. He covered a lot of ground, arrived at the football with anger and was deceptively good at cutting down passing angles with his ability in pass coverage. It’s no surprise he was a college star and I am a bit stunned he wasn’t more of an NFL standout. He was one of the most physically impressive linebackers I’ve seen in high school.
The skinny: Crisp gave his commitment to N.C. State 10 months prior to National Signing Day and never wavered despite holding nearly 40 offers. With the Wolfpack, he was never able to meet expectations, as his time in Raleigh was marred by injuries and lackluster play. All of this led him to go undrafted in 2015. Crisp has had opportunities with both Arizona and New Orleans during the last two seasons, and successfully made both practice squads, but has yet to see any game action and is currently a free agent.
Farrell’s take: This is a puzzling one, and I guess the injuries speak to it, but Crisp had it all. He was tall, long and had very good feet, and he was going to a coach in Tom O’Brien who made offensive linemen great. I remember watching him hold his own against beasts such as Ronald Powell, Sharif Floyd and Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the 100-degree heat in Deland, Fla., at the Top Gun event and feeling that he had more of an edge to him than I expected. It was at that point I was convinced he had the work ethic and toughness to be a star, backing up his high school film. I guess it never materialized for him, which is a shame, because he was such a high-class and high-character kid.
The skinny: Henry, a 2018 prospect like White, hasn’t narrowed down his list too far yet although Clemson, Georgia and Alabama received recent visits and the Tigers have been considered the favorite, according to sources.
Farrell’s take: Henry could slide off this list as there is very little wiggle room and he could drop a few spots in our next rankings. But right now he’s right in the midst of North Carolina history because he’s an elite edge rusher and can wow you with some amazing moves. His final ranking will be determined by how he adds weight and if added weight slows him down.
The skinny: Moss committed to North Carolina a year prior to National Signing Day, and while he still listened to other schools, he stayed firm with his commitment and signed with the Tar Heels. Moss showed his potential during a promising sophomore season (going by Donte Paige-Moss by that point), but some off-the-field issues and a disappointing junior season, which ended with a torn ACL, soured his time in Chapel Hill. Despite these issues, he still declared for the NFL Draft early. After not being drafted largely because of work ethic concerns and some idiotic tweets from Shreveport at the Independence Bowl, he has had stops in the UFL, CFL and Arena League, where he last played with Orlando in 2016.
Farrell’s take: This was an amazing athlete with a me-first attitude and very little common sense, and it’s a shame because when I think of the word freak at defensive end, Moss is up there with Jadeveon Clowney and others. He could have been an amazing hybrid prospect and had the talent to be a high first-rounder if he could have kept his head on straight. He had issues with teammates and off-field stuff from the start of his UNC career, never became a consistent player, had a knee injury and then sent those tweets. Game over.