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Flames Senior Feature: Toney White
As LibertyFlames.com continues to offer coverage of Liberty's football team throughout its bye week, the web site has provided a look at six of this year's senior players. During the bye week, the web site released a feature story written about six members of its 17-player graduating senior class.
Today's feature is about senior offensive lineman Toney White and wraps up the bye week series. This story was the feature story for the Nov. 5 Flames Illustrated game day program (VMI game).
White has been an anchor for the Flames this season at right tackle and is one of four offensive linemen to have started all 10 games this season at their positions.
Liberty continues to have one of the top offenses in the country, as the Flames rank No. 8 in scoring offense (36.40 points per game) and No. 21 in total offense (422.90 yards per game). The Flames' offensive line has kept would-be tacklers out of the backfield throughout 2011, with Liberty ranking No. 14 in the country in fewest tackles for a loss allowed (4.70 per game).
Liberty's Renaissance Man
Toney White has been called a Renaissance man. What does that mean?
Is he like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin, both whom were accomplished in multiple fields?
Or is he like Danny DeVito, who plays an out-of-work businessman in the movie Renaissance Man, trying to educate an Army unit of misfits and keep them from flunking out of basic training?
Perhaps he is neither. Or maybe his career at Liberty could be a depiction of both.
"Tony has a unique personality," said Liberty offensive line coach Blaine McCorkle. "He's a fifth-year senior, and this is his first year to start, so he's been a journeyman on the offensive line. Until this year, he's never been in competition to start. He's had some really good players ahead of him. He has just come into his own this year."
After redshirting in 2007, he saw limited action his first year, playing in four games. As a sophomore, he played in five games and four more as a junior.
The 2010 season saw the graduation of four starters on the offensive line – Justin Vargas (LT), Matt Camire (C), Alex Stadler (RG) and Soeren Wendland (RT). Three of the four received accolades from the Big South for their efforts, as Stadler and Vargas were first-team all-conference honorees, while Wendland received a second-team nod.
Then the 2011 season started, and the Flames made it their quest to pursue a fifth-consecutive Big South title and ultimately make their first-ever appearance in the NCAA playoffs.
As far as this season's outlook, Liberty's offensive skilled positions appeared pretty solid in actual game experience. The coaching staff also had high hopes for this season's offensive linemen, but they had limited experience in the trenches.
What any coach will say when it comes to grading offensive linemen, nothing beats in-game action. The more snaps a lineman has, the more confident they will be to perform. Liberty needed seasoned veterans, and that is where White has been so valuable.
"Tony has come into his own this year," said McCorkle. "One thing he has done that has been of great value the last four years is that he has played, at some point, four different positions. He's played both guards and both tackle positions. There's a lot of value in that, and it speaks a lot to his intellect."
Speaking of intellect, McCorkle has said White, who majored in biology with an environmental science emphasis, demonstrates great success in the classroom, even classrooms of the non-traditional form.
"Tony may be up on a mountain somewhere studying trout in a stream," McCorkle said. "He's a pretty focused guy, whether it's football or class, and he's got some unique classes."
"He's a really smart guy. His SAT scores were off the charts," said McCorkle. "He's already graduated with his degree, but the courses he's taking now are stuff I can't even pronounce. They are some sort of ‘-ologies'."
So the Jeffersonian aspects of White's description being a Renaissance Man seem to come to light. Not only is he excelling in the classroom, he has the on-field versatility to see action at different positions on the line.
For the 2011 season, though, White has honed in on playing right tackle and has started every game this season. The season opener at N.C. State was quite the "into-the-fire" experience for him.
"They came at us really fast," said White about facing the Wolfpack defense in his first-ever start. "We picked up a lot of stuff pretty quickly that we needed to in order to give us a chance in that game."
"I think that's been the story all year for us," he said. "I think we have picked up a lot of stuff and have improved in a lot of places over the course of this season."
McCorkle echoed White's assessment of how the senior has done in his first year as a starter.
"One thing he has done this year is proven football is important to him," McCorkle said. "When you become a starter, you have to carry yourself like a starter. For the first couple of games, he was feeling himself through it, but for the last few weeks, he has graded as high as anybody on the offensive line. He has been really productive, playing with a lot of emotion and intensity. I couldn't be happier with him."
So what about the Danny DeVito analogy of a Renaissance man? White's teammates would not be considered misfits, but White could be considered an unconventional leader who is helping his unit make the passing grade this season.
McCorkle shared how impressed he was with White's performance this season covering Gardner Webb defensive end Preston Pemasa, who is considered an excellent pass rusher and a preseason all-conference selection. White helped limit Pemasa to one sack in Liberty's win against the Bulldogs.
"I watched a lot of film that week. He was a hard player to guard," White said about Pemasa. "You had to finish your blocks on him or he would spin off and make a play. But I think my preparation to play him paid off."
Preparation and progression are two things helping Liberty's offensive line become more successful this season. Early season struggles have turned into lessons learned in recent games.
During the first four games of the season, Liberty rushed for 414 yards and four touchdowns (103.5 yards and 1.0 TDs per game). In the last five games of the season, the Flames rushed for 1,059 yards and 15 touchdowns, improving its game averages to 221.8 yards and 3.0 touchdowns.
One highlight came against Coastal Carolina, as the Flames recorded 259 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Liberty head coach Danny Rocco was so impressed with his offensive line, he named all of them the team's player of the game.
So what are the characteristics of a Renaissance man? Not only is such a person skilled in a variety of fields, they also demonstrate the ability to help improve their fellow man.
Toney White may never be listed with the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, but if the Flames fulfill their quest of another conference title and their first playoff appearance, his teammates will have smiles greater than Mona Lisa's.
Chris Doyle is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics