Recruitment: North Carolina first contacted Whiteford in the summer of 2011. After watching him at a 16-and-under Perfect Game Tournament, the Tar Heel staff told Whiteford to give them a call. The following day Whiteford spoke with assistant coach Scott Jackson and the two agreed to begin the recruiting process.
In addition to North Carolina, Whiteford received interest from schools throughout the southeast. Auburn and Virginia Tech offered him a scholarship as did local school Kennesaw State. That is not to say there was no interest from additional programs as well.
"A bunch of other schools were interested, but I just never got offers from them because I never pursued them," Whiteford said.
A scholarship offer, combined with the opportunity to play at a program as successful and prominent as North Carolina, was too much to pass up. Whiteford committed to the Tar Heels in early 2012.
Why Carolina? Despite hailing from Georgia, Whiteford seemed destined to play for the Tar Heels simply based on the schools he attended growing up.
"I went to Chapel Hill Middle School, Chapel Hill High School and now I'm going to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, so it's kind of ironic," Whiteford joked.
It was much more than the name that convinced the middle-infielder that Chapel Hill, N.C. was the right place for him. Ever since he can remember, Whiteford has been coming up to the Triangle area to visit his family. His grandparents, aunts and uncles all live in Raleigh, N.C. Whiteford and his immediate family visit every Christmas and Thanksgiving. The familiarity for the area certainly heightened his knowledge and comfort level with the school and baseball program.
Like other Tar Heel commitments, the prominence of the baseball program as well as the university itself were deciding factors in Whiteford's decision to attend North Carolina.
"They're a great program, they always have good talent, they always have a chance to go to Omaha and compete and win the College World Series," Whiteford explained. "My whole family lives up there in Raleigh… That was another influence and just the school. I like the campus, it's a good school to go to and to get a degree from there you're set for life. Those are pretty much the reasons."
North Carolina does not offer a large number of out-of-state prospects due in large part to the home grown talent already within the state. Whiteford considers the fact that the staff offered him a spot to be an indication that he has an opportunity to play early and often, something any young prospect welcomes.
"… as an out of state kid I think that I'm going to have a chance at maybe starting this year or I think they see me coming in there and having a shot at being part of the team right away," Whiteford said.
Scouting Report:Whiteford will likely play second base or shortstop at North Carolina. With solid speed and a strong arm, the right-hander can get to balls up the middle and make the tough throw as well. His throw across the infield was clocked at 82 mph by Perfect Game in June.
"He plays shortstop for me and I think UNC looked at him probably to shift him over to second base, but he's played short and second, predominantly short, for me just because of his raw natural ability and the way he plays the game," Chapel Hill head coach Mick Harper said. "We just need his leadership and his flexibility both."
Whiteford hits left-handed and is not known for his power. Last spring, he hit .333 with 10 RBI, two doubles and a home run. Whiteford makes up for his lack of power by getting on base any way possible. His on-base percentage was .607 and he drew nine walks in just eight games.
Whiteford missed 15 of Chapel Hill's 23 games due to a strained back, but recorded an RBI in all but two games he played in. His presence was obviously missed as the Panthers went 6-2 with Whiteford in the lineup and just 8-7 when he was unable to play.
"I'm a doubles and triples kind of guy," Whiteford said. "I'll hit a home run every now and then, but for the most part I just get on base a lot. I draw a lot of walks, hit for average, left-handed hitter and steal some bases. That's pretty much what I can bring at the plate."
What stands out about Whiteford is his knowledge of the game. He comes from a baseball family. His father played at Minnesota State while his brother played at Tennessee-Wesleyan in college. In fact, this is the final year of eight straight seasons with a Whiteford starting at shortstop for Chapel Hill.
Watch Whiteford and it is clear that he grew up around the game. He rarely makes the wrong play or decision, is patient at the plate, is always aware of the game situation and keeps his teammates aware as well. This should serve North Carolina well as the Tar Heels take pride in avoiding mental errors.
Coach Quotes: "I think he's got all the tools," Harper said. "Obviously for us he hits in the three-hole. He's the best overall pure hitter that we probably will have this upcoming season. He's a left-handed hitter so that allows him to hit anywhere from first, second and third. He has some speed. He can bunt and move runners around, hitting in the first or second-hole, but just because he can drive in runs and hit for average and power, we hit him in our third spot."
"He does everything well," Harper continued. "Overall I would rank him right up there against any other D-1 prospect. I think the one thing that probably sets him away is just his baseball instincts. He's one of those kids that does a really good job of setting up the count well for him to hit at the plate. You never really have to remind him or talk to him about where to go with the ball, how to position himself based off of the batter or the situation. He does a lot of those things instinctively without having to be told."