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Masai Whyte and Dre Farris – the thunder and lightning of the Collins football team – are Bowling Green-bound.
The senior-to-be dynamic duo, who helped the Titans to an 11-4 record and into the Class AAAA state championship game last season, committed to play at Western Kentucky University on Wednesday.
Whyte pledged first, calling Hilltoppers assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm on Wednesday morning to let him know of his decision.
“I’m really excited,” Whyte, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker, said a short time later. “I’m just blessed to have a chance to play at a higher level.”
Meanwhile Farris, a 5-9, 175-pound all-purpose player, committed to the Hilltoppers via Twitter a little after 8:30 p.m.
“Western Kentucky is a great fit for me,” he said a short time later. “They run the Spread [offense], and [Coach] Bobby Petrino is a genius at that. Plus it’s close to home, and I have a great support system at home.”
Both cited the presence of Petrino, a former head coach at Louisville and Arkansas, whose hiring last spring brought both statewide and nationwide buzz to the program, as being a big factor in their decisions.
Commitments are non-binding, and NCAA rules prohibit players from signing official letters-of-intent with a university until February. College coaches are prohibited from commenting on recruits until that is official.
“They’re doing big things down there, especially with the new coaching staff, and they’re bringing in some great players,” said Farris, who was one of four commitments that Western received Wednesday.
Added Whyte: “I think he’s an amazing coach. He knows what he’s doing. I like his success, and I think he’s going to turn Western’s program into a way better program.”
Both helped turn the Titans into state championship contenders in only their third seasons.
Whyte amassed 182 tackles (71 solo, 111 assists) in only 13 games – he missed two games because of injury – on defense. On offense, as a short-yardage back with breakaway speed, he rushed for 332 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Meanwhile fleeted-footed Farris, who was timed at 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash earlier this summer, accounted for 2,036 yards of total offense. He rushed 138 times for 997 yards and 17 TDs and caught 68 passes for 1,039 yards and 13 TDs. Farris also tallied 69 tackles as a defensive back for the Titans.
He is projected as a slot receiver at Western.
“We’re excited for both of them,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said Wednesday night via cell phone from Panama City, Fla., where he is on vacation. “We think both of them are going to do big things down there.
“Masai, he’s just very explosive. That’s the thing they [Western’s coaches] talked the most about, how well he closes.…[And] Dre is real special with the ball in his hands. I think they’ll use him a lot like we do.”
Whyte said he also had offers from Lindsey Wilson and Pikeville colleges, as well as interest from Toledo and Eastern Kentucky.
“I really like Western because of their style of play, and the coaches are really interested in me,” he said. “They said I have a lot of skill and the ability to improve. They gave me the most interest.”
Farris, meanwhile, chose Western over Toledo.
“I’m looking to come in and make things happen; hopefully it’s God will,” he said.
Farris phoned Brohm on Wednesday night to give him the good news, then the two called Petrino to let him know too.
Although the two are cousins, Farris said he and Whyte didn’t coordinate their commitments to give Wednesday a familial feel.
“It just worked out that way,” Farris said.
Both agreed, though, that they were relieved to get their college decisions out of the way this summer.
"It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Whyte said.
“Now me and Masai, we can be with our teammates and get ready for the upcoming season,” Farris said.
And it’s a season that both hope will end in Bowling Green once again, in the 4-A state championship game, albeit with a different result than last year (when Highlands blanked the Titans, 47-0).
“My goal is to get a state championship, just bring it home,” Whyte said.
Regardless of whether Whyte and Farris win a state title next season, though, Lucas said he already knows the two are championship-caliber individuals.
“They’re even better kids than they are football players, and that’s saying a lot,” he said.