REELTOWN, Ala. — In his chase for the state record books, JaTarvious Whitlow did himself plenty of favors in his most-recent outing.
The 3-star athlete prospect out of LaFayette (Ala.), yet again showed why his offer sheet of Auburn, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Jacksonville State, Georgia State and Troy seems too short. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound (listed size, but he’s bigger than that) quarterback for his high school team, which is 7-0 in Alabama class 2A, continued to charge up the Alabama record books with a 7-touchdown performance in his team’s 58-8 win over region foe Reeltown.
The 7 touchdowns — 2 passing, 4 rushing and 1 kick return — give Whitlow 37 so far in the 2016 season. But he’s just getting started.
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“He came to me at the beginning of the year and said, ‘What’s the record?'” LaFayette coach James Lucas said. “That’s how much of a gifted mindset I feel like he’s got. … Ultimately, their goal is to be in the state championship down in Auburn.”
— Benjamin Wolk (@benjaminwolk) October 8, 2016
At 37 touchdowns accounted for so far, Whitlow will have to explode throughout the rest of the regular season and playoffs to reach the Alabama all-classification record of 67. But Whitlow can catapult himself into the top 10 with 10 more.
The current top 8 has a pretty solid track record for moving onto the college ranks. Five went on to play Division I football, one plays Division III and one was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.
With 5.3 touchdowns per game, Whitlow is fully capable of getting to 50-plus scores before the playoffs hit. From there, a deep run could even pressure the 67-mark based on how well Whitlow has performed this season. Sure, the 7 touchdowns in a single game are impressive, but here’s a look at all of Whitlow’s mind-boggling stats this season:
- 1,380 passing yards with 19 touchdowns (3 INTs), completing 64.3 percent of his passes
- 1,233 rushing yards with 18 touchdowns
- 6 games with 100-plus yards rushing
- As a punter — yes — averaging 45.8 yards per punt, pinning 4 of his 6 inside the 20
- Averaging 33.8 yards per kick return with 1 touchdown and 29.4 yards per punt return
- Accounted for 12 2-point conversions
- 4 of 5 on PATs
All of that is pretty spectacular. Throw in the fact that all of those are offensive stats, and Auburn still thinks he will fit in even better as a defensive prospect. Whitlow has the next-level athletic ability to be a legitimate force at multiple positions.
In his conversations with the Tigers, most of Whitlow’s contact goes through defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, though even offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has been in touch, Whitlow said. Still, Whitlow understandably feels there are more potential offers out there.
He just has to keep performing.
“I’m just taking it slow,” Whitlow said. “I know, I hope and I pray that more come in. I’m just being patient. Just going to let God work. Then I’ll go there from there.”
He’s been in Auburn for the Clemson game and the Louisiana-Monroe game. Whitlow has also been to Jacksonville State and will be at Troy this weekend.
But he really wants to be in Auburn the first weekend of December for the state championship games at Jordan-Hare Stadium. For Whitlow, it would add to his lengthy state-title trophy room. He already holds 2A state championship titles in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, triple jump, long jump and another with the LaFayette basketball team as a sophomore.
A football state championship would add the final topping on his jumbo sundae — and it would come in front of an intrigued audience.
“But like I tell them all the time, you’re not going to be known until you get to the championship game. Because that’s where all the college coaches be looking down at the game,” Lucas said. “We need to get him in those All-American games, though.”
So, the logical question everyone is wondering: If he’s really this good, why is the offer sheet so short? And why does Auburn seem to be holding back on chasing Whitlow as strongly as other top prospects?
Some of it might have to do with his ACT scores. Whitlow is doing well academically, but he still has to get his standardized test score up a little to gain full eligibility. He doesn’t expect that to be a problem, but college programs might be taking it cautiously before giving him an all-in recruiting pitch.
The other reason might be the 2A competition. It doesn’t take long to realize Whitlow seems much more gifted than everyone he’s playing against. But don’t take my word for it, you can check the tape for yourself. Sure, 18:28 is long, especially for a midseason highlight tape, but that just shows how many plays this guy is making.
You’ll finish watching the video saying, “OK, Auburn needs to land this dude ASAP.”
“Auburn wants him for defensive purposes. I said, ‘Man, he’s a playmaker,’ You can put him in Auburn’s offense. He’ll throw it. He’ll run it,” Lucas said. “They claim we’re a small school. But we beat 4As. We beat 5As. Like I always said, they’re always looking at the 7As and stuff, but that kid, he can dominate as a 7A player.”
I’d say, too.
But there also are a few defensive plays sprinkled in there, and it makes you realize why the Auburn staff would jump to offer Whitlow, despite no other Power 5 offers. McGriff’s presence in Whitlow’s recruitment will likely be a big draw down the stretch.
While Whitlow wants other offers, he holds Auburn and UAB in particularly high regard, saying they’d “be tough to beat.” And the Auburn contingent might feel pretty confident with that, if the Tigers decide to let Whitlow fire away with his commitment (which likely won’t come until Signing Day).
But the Tigers edge over the Blazers might not be as wide as common expectations would suggest.
“The only person that came for a game was from UAB,” Whitlow said.
That meant a lot to Whitlow.
Bill Clark and his staff visited LaFayette High School and talked with the entire football team. UAB has made it clear that Whitlow is the top priority in its 2017 recruiting class. Whitlow feels that love, and his high school coach has encouraged him to take it seriously despite many of his peers and members of the community telling him he’d be crazy to pass up an Auburn offer.
“UAB wants him bad. They told him he’d be the franchise face. They told him, ‘Auburn can do this, but can Auburn do this?’ Can they put your face on the billboard? All those places?” Lucas said. “Coach Bill Clark is on him hard. He’s on him very hard.”
As Whitlow said, if he was deciding immediately, he’d have a tough choice between those two schools. By the time he picks on National Signing Day, he might be choosing between many more.
But the nearby nature of Auburn and his desire to show what a small-town kid can do at a top program could be a major pull.
“They show a lot of love. They really tell me that if I come in, I can make a difference,” Whitlow said. “Auburn telling me that, and I’m coming from a small school like LaFayette, that means a lot to me because I feel like I really can do big things.”