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Notre Dame, USC Head White’s List : Crespi Running Back Begins to Pare Field

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Times Staff Writer

Russell White of Crespi High said Friday that USC and Notre Dame have emerged as favorites from the pack of schools jockeying to sign him to a national letter of intent.

The senior running back, regarded as one of the nation’s top high school prospects, said he will narrow the field to 10 schools before Crespi’s season-opening game against Redlands on Sept. 9, and that USC and Notre Dame will head the list. He said he will further narrow the field to five schools at the end of the high school season.

The signing date for high school senior football players is Feb. 8.

Most of the nation’s major football powers have expressed interest in White through letters and phone calls. Among the most persistent have been each of the Pacific 10 Conference schools, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas A&M;, Alabama and Penn State.

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Conspicuously absent from White’s list will be UCLA, which he has eliminated from consideration. White has ruled out UCLA on three counts.

In February, the Bruins signed Kevin Williams, who many regard as the nation’s top freshman running back, creating a logjam of talent in the backfield. Also, White wants the option of competing in track and field in college and UCLA Coach Terry Donahue traditionally discourages football players from competing in other sports.

Finally, White’s mother, Helen, believes UCLA’s quarter system is unsuitable for her son’s academic development.

“I just think the sessions are too short. They’re like cram sessions,” she said.

White already has visited USC twice of his own accord, which does not count against the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. limit of five college-sponsored trips. The only other official trip White is certain to make is one to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

“I’m curious about it,” he said. “I just want to see what it’s about.”

Said Helen White in reference to Notre Dame’s recruiting strategy: “Any school that sends five letters in one day is worth taking a look at.”

White expressed preferences toward schools that play in moderate weather, on natural grass and run the I formation on offense. Forget the wishbone, he said, which will come as bad news to Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer.

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White also put a high premium on coaching style.

“I don’t like the strict stuff with a coach that yells all the time. That doesn’t get a team anywhere. Besides, I like to have a little fun,” he said.

USC and Notre Dame also appeal to White because of their strong alumni associations. He plans to major in business and advertising and is looking for a school that can help land him work after graduation.

“Football is what catches my attention first, but I’m also looking at what the school can do for me after I graduate,” he said. “Both those schools have great connections in business.”

Of course, if White’s high school statistics are indicative, he might have a job waiting in the National Football League when he graduates from college.

In two seasons at Crespi, the two-time Times Valley Back of the Year has rushed for 4,658 yards in 417 carries, an average of 11.2 yards a carry. He has scored 69 touchdowns, 416 points and could hold every significant state rushing and scoring record by the time he leaves Crespi.

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