West Xtra: Central Valley's Whitehead adds 'Bama to his recruiting list

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Most of Jordan Whitehead's trip to the University of Alabama earlier this week went as expected.

Like the part when he toured the campus. And the part when he hung out with good friend Robert Foster, a former teammate at Central Valley.

A one-on-one meeting with 'Bama coach Nick Saban surely wasn't on Whitehead's original itinerary. Neither was receiving a scholarship offer from the Crimson Tide.

Whitehead got them both, and has quickly found his college selection process even more interesting than it had already been.

Alabama became the latest school to offer Whitehead, a senior at Central Valley and arguably the WPIAL's most dynamic player. Whitehead (5 feet 11, 180 pounds), who is being recruited by most schools as a cornerback, has more than 20 Division I scholarship offers, with Alabama being perhaps the biggest name on the list. The Crimson Tide has won two of the past three BCS National Championships and own the No. 1 recruiting class in the country (Class of 2015) according to Rivals.

Whitehead arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Sunday morning and departed Monday night. Earlier Monday, Whitehead worked out for Alabama coaches and then met with Saban.

If that wasn't big enough of a surprise, the scholarship offer likely was.

"Yes, I was [surprised], actually," Whitehead said. "I met him in his office and he offered me a scholarship."

Whitehead, who lives in Center Township, has quickly gone from having four schools in his list of favorites to five. Alabama joins Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and Ohio State. Whitehead will make his decision Oct. 3 when Central Valley plays host to New Castle for its homecoming game. Whitehead said he hopes to begin college next spring.

In Whitehead's eyes, the Alabama offer simply opened up another window for him.

"It just told me to be open and look at all of my options," said Whitehead, whose offer sheet also includes the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State and Georgia. "[Alabama] is one of the greatest schools to play at. I'd put them right at the top [with the other four favorites]."

Strengthening Alabama's hopes of securing Whitehead's commitment is the presence of Foster, a former Central Valley star himself who has a strong bond with Whitehead. Foster is a redshirt freshman wide receiver and is expected to be a major contributor this season.

Foster and recent Aliquippa graduate Dravon Henry (now at West Virginia) have been helping Whitehead with the recruiting process, not so much telling him what school he should attend, but just keeping him level-headed and letting him know what to expect.

"When I'm with [Foster], we really don't talk football. We talk about life," Whitehead said. "With [Henry], it's the same thing."

Like Foster and Henry, Whitehead has had an extremely productive high school career. As a junior, Whitehead played running back and wide receiver. He rushed for 674 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per carry, had 22 catches for 317 yards and scored a team-high 20 touchdowns. He also completed his only pass attempt for a 53-yard touchdown.

Additionally, he was a standout defensive back, kick returner and punt returner.

Central Valley went 11-2 last season. Both its losses were to West Allegheny, the second coming in the WPIAL Class AAA title game.

Speed is among Whitehead's greatest athletic assets -- he ran the 100-meter dash in 10.89 seconds this past spring for the Warriors track team.

Whitehead competed in the Drew Brees Passing Academy last month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. In the 7-on-7 tournament, Whitehead teamed with Central Valley and Aliquippa players to win the championship in their division. Whitehead was named one of the tournament's most outstanding players.

Rivals ranks Whitehead as the No. 6 player in Pennsylvania, the No. 27 cornerback in the country, and the No. 241 overall player in the country.

Each of the five schools in serious contention for Whitehead likely have him among their top priorities. Whitehead, though, said all of them are even right now.

"It's pretty much the same at every place," he said. "All have good coaches. All have good facilities. I'm just looking for the best fit for me."

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