Mike White, a proven winner in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, is Benedict College’s latest choice to lead the football program out of the wilderness.
White, a fixture at SIAC powerhouse Albany State for 35 seasons as a player and coach, has a long-range plan for establishing a program in his alma mater’s image in Columbia.
“We are going to build a solid program with solid recruiting,” he said. “We are not going to rely on junior college transfers. They have their place, of course, but we want our program to reflect the kind of young men we recruit out of high school.”
White faced a similar challenge when he took over for Hampton Smith at Albany State in 2000.
“We’d just been hit with NCAA violations and we lost 12 scholarships, so we had to crank it up again,” he said. “We didn’t moan or make excuses; we just got down to work. That’s the plan here. We’re going to keep at it until we get this program going.”
The depleted Rams went 4-6 in White’s first two seasons before things turned around with impressive results. White retired last season with a 112-51 record, winning or sharing six conference championships.
Just don’t expect miracles from White and his staff that features three from Albany State – Kenyan Conner, Demetrie McCray and Ronnie Baker.
“We are very proud of the freshman class we recruited,” said White. “We feel they are going to have a lot to say about the direction of the program, but they are pups and the coaching staff will have to be patient.”
Patience will be most required with the quarterback situation, which has freshmen Kalu Onumah (6-4, 225) and Charles Foster (6-4, 215) as the front-runners.
The veteran leaders are linebacker Stephen Williams (6-0, 255), running back George Myers Jr. (5-6, 170) and wide receiver Okechi Ntiasagwe (6-3, 200).
Williams had 23 tackles and five tackles for loss in a reserve role a year ago. Myers Jr., who could move to slot receiver, posted 239 combined rushing and passing yards in 2014. Ntiasagwe, from Ridge View, caught 19 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman.
“We are all motivated to turn things around and have some fun here,” said Ntiasagwe. “For me, it’s for selfish reasons. I’ve never played on a winning team at any level and it’s something I want to experience in the worst way.”
The Mike White Era begins next week in the Palmetto Capital City Classic against Livingstone at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.