Welcome to the 12th article in the “Focus in” series. Today we’re taking a look at former Ohio State/Rutgers safety Brendon White. We’ve already touched on a number of players and you can read those by clicking the names below. As always I hope you enjoy and if there is a prospect you’d really like covered, then drop their name in the comments below.
We often say that performance at the NFL level has a lot to do with circumstance, where did a certain player land and why was it either the perfect spot for him to develop his talents or the worst sport. When I look at Brendon White, I see a little bit of circumstance in him falling from being a 4* recruit at Ohio State to a UDFA that the Jets picked up after the 2021 NFL Draft.
Brendon is the son of former Ohio State captain and 11 year NFL veteran William White. William was a 4th round pick in 1988 of the Detroit Lions and went on to play in 170 NFL games for the Lions/Falcons and Chiefs.
Born in Ohio, Brendon was a standout performer on both sides of the ball for Olentangy Liberty high school, after coming down with 6 interceptions as a Junior before switching to the offensive side of the ball as a QB, guiding his team to a 13-1 record and accounting for 25 total touchdowns as a senior. He was using as a running QB, and lined up as a receiver as well, many thought he’s stick at either RB or WR in college, but he was recruited as an Athlete by many programs.
Having in starred in Ohio and with the connections through his father, it came as no surprise that Ohio State recruited him heavily. He received 8 offers in total, including offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Kentucky and Boston College, but Brendon decided to stay home and enroll at OSU instead.
Urban Meyer and his staff decided to start Brendon out as a wide receiver in 2017:
“Right now, we have a little bit of a need at wide receiver, we’re pretty deep at linebacker. So Brendon White, he was a good athlete, a quarterback in high school. Let’s take a look at him there, see how he develops. He’s also learning how to tackle and play on defense better... probably his first impact will be in the kicking game”
That experiment didn’t last long as it was announced in June of 2017 that he was transferring to safety. He appeared in just 5 games as a freshman making a minimal impact.
In 2018 he was seen as the backup safety to starter Jordan Fuller and for the first 8 games of the season, that’s exactly what he was. He played sparingly in his back-up role, showcasing a good combination of speed/physicality. It wasn’t until Fuller was ejected against Nebraska for targeting that White got his opportunity, and he grabbed it with both hands.
In 58 snaps he recorded 13 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss
“Brendon White came in and did a hell of a job,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s been working very hard to earn the trust of the coaches and get on the field. He’s getting better and better and, obviously, he proved it.”
Over the remaining five games, White showcased why he was a 4* recruit coming into Ohio State. He ended the season with 46 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 3 pass defenses and 1 interception, he was named the Rose Bowl defensive MVP after picking off a Washington 2 point conversion attempt.
At the end of 2018, White must have felt that 2019 was going to be his breakout season. Yet at the conclusion of the season White had started just a single game, recording 19 tackles. So how did he go from the Rose Bowl defensive MVP to a back-up role the year after.
In 2019 the Ohio State Buckeyes hired Ryan Day to take over from Urban Meyer who was stepping down due to his health. Day hired Greg Mattison to help run the defensive side of the game and with those changes came changes to the system.
OSU moved to a more zone-based system which would often only employ one safety and three cornerbacks, Ohio State had a lot of talent and not enough playing time to go around. Ryan Day moved White to more of a safety/linebacker combo player, a position that’s called the bullet position within the system.
“That hybrid position, that Bullet is kind of a bigger safety who plays linebacker,” OSU coach Ryan Day said. And so if it’s a little bit pass heavy, sometimes you’ll see the bullet in there a little bit more. If it’s heavy, heavy pass, it’s more nickel, more of a defensive back, a corner type.
“And so that’s the good thing for us is that we have some different personnel groupings we can get into on defense now to counter what we’re seeing on offense. And so the more things you can do, then obviously the more versatility you provide as a player.
“But Brendon is doing a good job in terms of learning the position. He jumped around a little bit in his position, so now that he’s settling into this, he played better this week. He is improving over the last couple of weeks and I think he’s going to continue to improve.”
It’s hard to go from coming in as a starter and performing to a high standard, to playing between 15-30 snaps on any given Saturday. White never complained, he said he was frustrated at times, but he always came across as being all-in, and despite his only personal frustration, he never let it spill over and always said the right things in support of his teammates.
With just one year of eligibility left, Brendon decided that it was in his best interest to enter the transfer portal and find a new home for his senior season. After careful consideration, White decided to move to Rutgers, joining Greg Schiano his defensive coordinator from 2017/2018, who was taking over as head coach at the Scarlet Knights.
Due to the COVID pandemic, White was only given 5 games to flash his talent in 2020, but he was able to put some good things on tape that had people remembering why was being seen as an impact player for the Buckeyes ahead of the 2019 season. He finished the season with 38 tackles, 0.5 for a loss, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. He didn’t stat pad, but he made a huge impact on that program and Schiano outlined his just before he headed back to face his former team at OSU.
“I think Brendon is doing a tremendous job. From the day he got here, he was a leader on our football team,” he said. Schiano continued, “He works extremely hard. He is extremely focused on being the best player that he can be and helping others around him be that. And then he has played well on the field the last two weeks. I had a great relationship with him at Ohio State. At the beginning, it was a lot of tough love. He really came on the latter part of the 2018 season. When things didn’t work out there for him, I certainly was pleased that he chose to come join us. He is an integral part of our program.”
If you watch White and read the scouting reports, you’ll find some consistent themes. Good speed, good pursuit, good angles, good physicality, coverage is an issue, backpedal is choppy, doesn’t always anticipate throwing lanes and only 11 games of starting experience at the college level. These are consistent across the board when you research White. I don’t know if White will stick, but he seems like a good box safety who needs to play near the line to be effective. He may be able to stick and chisel a role on special teams in 2021.