If Howard Coach Joe Taylor had been asked earlier this summer to name his starting wide receivers for Saturday's season-opener at Liberty Baptist, the names of Herbert White and Greg Pinkney would not have been mentioned.
But the two freshmen have earned raves from their teammates and the coaching staff with their play during practices, and they will open the season as starters.
According to Taylor, White might be able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds if a wolf were on his heels. Pinkney has been touted as the Bison's next professional baseball player.
"They are an exceptional pair of freshmen," Taylor said. "Neither has any fear of a hit, they have that good body control and they catch the ball in a crowd. They haven't dropped a ball in three weeks.
"Everyone thought Kevin Watkins (senior) would be heir apparent to Tracy Singleton (the team's leading receiver in 1982), but White didn't know that. He came out as a walk-on and has been the biggest surprise out here. His high school coach (Bob Headen, H.D. Woodson) called me two days before practice and asked me to give him a chance. I did and he's earned a starting spot."
Pinkney, an outstanding running back and pitcher-outfielder at Annapolis High School, turned down a football grant to North Carolina in favor of a baseball scholarship to Howard.
"I wanted to play both sports and the Howard people said it would be okay," said Pinkney, who can run the 40 in 4.4. "I prefer football, although people say baseball is my best sport. I'm a little surprised at starting but both Herbert and I are glad to get this opportunity. Now, we have to make the most of it."
Of course, the 5-9, 170-pound Pinkney and 5-11, 180-pound White have already been dubbed Smurf 1 and Smurf 2, respectively.
"We don't have Tracy anymore and we've completely changed our passing offense, but I don't see any problem throwing to them," said senior quarterback Sandy Nichols, who completed nearly 100 passes to the 6-2 Singleton the past three seasons. "They're new to this and don't have any fear of any teams. I'll just go game by game to see who the clutch receiver will turn out to be. I've got confidence in them because they can catch the ball."
White, who caught four touchdown passes last year for Woodson, the Interhigh League champion, said he knew he wouldn't be highly recruited because of his lack of size and speed.
"I was a little disappointed I didn't get a scholarship and I guess I wanted to prove myself," said White, who had a 3.4 grade average (out of 4.0) at Woodson. "I came (to practice) in shape and was determined to catch every ball. I got a chance to move up when some of the veterans suffered some injuries and I kept working hard. I don't know what they expect out of me but I plan to do my best."
Last year, Singleton caught 65 passes, almost four times as many as the Bison's next receiver, and accounted for half of Howard's yardage. Taylor's revamped offense is designed to spread the wealth around a bit more.
"This year, we plan to throw the ball around--to the receivers, the backs--get everyone in the offense," Taylor said. "I'm real satisfied with the way the kids have responded thus far, especially White and Pinkney. People say you don't start freshmen, but these two guys have earned the right to play."