Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 | 2 a.m.
UNLV football is red-hot right now, and the player most responsible for turning up the heat has been junior wide receiver Ricky White.
White is enjoying a monster campaign in his second year in Las Vegas. The former Michigan State transfer has racked up 55 catches for 884 yards through nine games. And he has been on a particular tear since Jayden Maiava took over the offense; in Maiava’s seven games at quarterback, including six starts, White has logged four games of 150 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
And their downfield connection only appears to be getting more unstoppable as the season goes on. In the last two contests, White has gone for 317 yards and four touchdowns while averaging more than 20 yards per catch. In Saturday’s 56-14 thrashing of New Mexico, he caught eight balls for 165 yards and two scores.
UNLV coach Barry Odom was succinct in his assessment of White’s contribution to the victory.
“Big-time catches,” Odom said. “He is an elite player.”
White has always possessed the talent to be a standout, as evidenced by his 4-star recruiting ranking coming out of high school in Georgia, and he flashed some of that ability last year, when he caught 51 passes for 619 yards and four touchdowns. But the 6-foot-1 speedster has taken it to a new level in 2023, and he has elevated the entire offense along the way.
Part of it is scheme — offensive coordinator Brennan Marion’s has done a good job of putting White in advantageous matchups, such as the first snap of the game against New Mexico, which saw White run past a lone defender and pull in a play-action pass for an easy 30-yard touchdown.
The rest of it is hard work, which White has been diligent about putting in on a daily basis. His intensity in practice has been infectious, and the rest of the offense responded by voting him a team captain last week.
That recognition from his peers means a lot to White, who has made it a point to be more vocal this year.
“It’s definitely an honor,” White said. “I’m glad to be a team captain. I want to keep leading not only the offense, but the whole team and make sure we’re going every week.”
Odom believes his teammates respond to White as much for the example he sets throughout the week as his explosive stats on game day.
“The way he practices, the voice he is in the locker room, his habits,” Odom said. “He leads the way. He continues to make plays because, No. 1, he’s a really good player, and No. 2, he practices with great habits.”
White says he goes all-out during the week because that’s the best way to guarantee results on Saturday. And with the rest of the offense committed to following his lead, UNLV is blowing up the scoreboard on a weekly basis.
“I feel like the things we’re doing in practice — not just me, but the whole team — it’s translating into the games,” he said.
White currently ranks 11th in the nation in receiving yards, 15th in catches and 21st in touchdown receptions. An All-Mountain West selection is likely coming his way at the conclusion of the season, and he could draw some All-America consideration, depending on how he finishes down the stretch.
White has repeatedly come up clutch when UNLV has needed him most. His 48-yard catch with nine seconds remaining set up the winning field goal in the Scarlet and Gray’s 40-37 win over Vanderbilt, and his 21-yard catch with 10 seconds left helped position UNLV for a game-winning kick to beat Colorado State, 25-23.
He also stands a good chance of breaking the 1,000-yard barrier, which would make him UNLV’s first receiver to do so since Devante Davis in 2013.
With the way he’s piling up 100-yard games, White could hit quadruple digits as soon as Friday, when UNLV hosts Wyoming at Allegiant Stadium. If not then, White is confident he’ll make it happen before the end of the season.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’m going to get that thousand.”