LAURINBURG — The Bulldog is out of the bag and now it’s time to focus on winning a 4A state championship.
At least that’s the mindset Fighting Scots running back Zamir White is taking after verbally committing to the University of Georgia on Tuesday to play football next year after he graduates.
The highly anticipated announcement saw 13 camera crews from local to regional television stations and other media outlets, current and former teammates, coaches, friends, family and community members fill the commons area at Scotland High School to witness White’s decision.
In February, White narrowed his Division I college prospects to four. He made the announcement on his Twitter page on Feb. 20 with the University of Georgia topping his list. In a close second was Alabama, followed by Clemson and rounding out the top four was the University of North Carolina. Ohio State slid in at No. 5 after White met with Urban Meyer during the off season and made a trip to Columbus, Ohio.
The rising senior gave a short speech before standing behind five hats — Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia and Ohio State. All five schools had heavily recruited White, but in the past few months the front runners appeared to be North Carolina and Georgia. White made several unofficial visits to both schools including attending North Carolina’s “Freak Show,” a recruiting showcase that allows recruits to mingle with current and former Tar Heel players last week.
During Tuesday’s ceremony White wasted no time in grabbing the Georgia Bulldogs hat and placing it on his head before exclaiming, “Dawg Nation baby.”
In picking Georgia, White is following a path taken by two other top running backs from North Carolina — former five-star prospect Keith Marshall and four-star Todd Gurley both signed with the Bulldogs in 2012. Both former Bulldogs were drafted into the NFL, Marshall in 2016 by the Washington Redskins and Gurley in 2015 by the Los Angeles Rams.
Georgia is set to lose its top two running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, after this season, so chances are better than average that White will see major playing time. White will likely share the rushing workload with sophomore Brian Herrien, the duo will make fine replacements for the Bulldogs in the backfield.
But that’s next year.
The only thing White is focused on now is being a member of the Fighting Scots and ending the team’s six season drought without a 4A state championship.
White posted on his Twitter following the ceremony that now that his decision has been made he is going to “focus fully on helping lead the Fighting Scots to a championship in December.”
The Fighting Scots will also look to become the first Sandhills Athletic Conference champions, as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 2017-2012 realignment begins. The storied Southeastern Conference did not survive this round of realignments, and the Scots along with the five other SEC schools — Pinecrest, Richmond, Hoke, Purnell Swett and Lumberton — will join Jack Britt and Seventy-First to form the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
The current crop of Fighting Scots seniors are 31-0 in conference play sporting six straight Southeastern Conference championships. The Class of 2018 has an overall record of 79-7 and have no plans of their reign coming to an end in the new conference.
Along with White, the Scots return SEC Offensive Player of the Year Syheam “Smiley” McQueen and Khalil Smith. The Scots also called up two running backs from last season’s JV squad.
Despite injuries and illness that caused him to miss several games at the beginning of the season White finished the 2016-17 season with 188 carries for 1,772 yards and 27 touchdowns.
McQueen had six receptions last season for 79 yards and one touchdown while White had two receptions for 21 yards and one touchdown. The Scots dynamic duo combined to rush for 3,010 yards and 49 touchdowns during the 2016 season.
The Scots defensive line will be replacing two key members of their defensive line with the graduation of Karfa Kaba and Octavis McLaurin. The only defensive line starter returning for the Scots will be T.J. Smith. During his junior year, Smith had 61 solo tackles, one fumble recovery and 15 quarterback sacks.
The entire linebacking corps for the Scots will return this season, led by senior linebackers Javon Ratliffe and Chris Williams. The Scots defense allowed just over 10 points per game, with 16 interceptions, seven fumbles and 59 quarterback sacks.
The first North Carolina High School Athletic Association dead period begins on July 3, the Scots will practice the week of July 10 before a second NCHSAA dead period. The first official day of practice for football, according to the NCHSAA is July 31.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.