Brendon White had to wait to get on the field last season for Ohio State, but when he finally earned that right, he was a revelation.
The safety from Powell (Ohio) Olentangy Liberty burst onto the scene with 13 tackles, including two for loss, in a Week 8 win over Nebraska.
The son of former Ohio State defensive back William White finished his sophomore season strong, too, being named defensive most valuable player of the Rose Bowl after notching eight tackles in a win over Washington.
Despite starting less than half of the games last season, White was considered a returning starter, and his having a huge role in the 2019 defense was taken for granted by the outside world.
After all, athletic guys who go 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and can run, hit and tackle tend to find their way onto the field.
Through two games, he has, but probably not as much as expected.
Yet you won’t hear him complain.
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What does White make of a second straight season having to wait his turn? The best of it.
“It’s definitely frustrating sometimes, but at the end of the day you have to know why you’re here,” he said Tuesday. “You’re here to win games, and whether you play or if I’m not playing, I’m still here. So you know, help my brothers win games and be there for them.”
White started the opener against Florida Atlantic and shared snaps with sophomore Shaun Wade as the fourth defensive back.
Last week against Cincinnati, Wade started and White came off the bench.
At times, White played strong safety while other times he shared the field with Wade as a hybrid fifth defensive back/linebacker called the “Bullet.”
The latter position came with new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison from Michigan, and White’s ability to play it and a traditional safety role led to the assumption he would be on the field nearly all the time.
So far, that’s not been the case. He has shared time with Wade as the fourth defensive back while also splitting reps with classmate Pete Werner as the third linebacker/fifth defensive back and ended up with fewer snaps than either of them.
Werner, who is also a junior, is a linebacker by trade but has some defensive back in his background so the coaches have used him in some deep coverages. That makes the defense less predictable, but it also cuts into the need to get a faster player such as White onto the field.
“Well, I think it’s evolving very well,” Mattison said. “Brendon had a good week of practice last week and did some very good things in the game. A lot of the teams we’ve played against have been in some 12 personnel, two tight ends, and then when teams start spreading out, getting a little looser that way, we like to go with a Bullet position more.”
He also pointed out White is adjusting to a new position while Werner is back in a role more similar to what he was doing last year, his first as a starter, a reality not lost on White.
“Pete has been play his position since he’s been here, so he’s he knows the ins and outs of being a linebacker,” White said. ”He helps me a lot. So I’m learning a lot from Pete, and then when it comes to being a DB, I’m helping him a lot, too.”
As Mattison noted, the choice of defensive personnel has reflected the people opposing offenses have put on the field so far, too.
“It’s going to depend on who you’re playing against: In other words, is this team a team that has two tight ends in the game a lot?” Mattison said. “Is this is a type of team that you need a 245-pound linebacker (Werner) as compared to 215-pound athlete (White)?”
UC and FAU both had talented pass-catching tight ends and chose to feature them, but that isn’t likely to be true of everyone on the Ohio State schedule.
Change could be coming as soon as this week as the Buckeyes head to Indiana, where the Hoosiers run a spread offense with a dual-threat quarterback and a productive tight end but also a trio of talented receivers.
White conceded that could mean a greater need for he and Wade to be on the field together with three other defensive backs and two linebackers Saturday, but he is not taking anything for granted.
“I think they potentially could, but at the day I’m just going to get ready for this week and keep doing what I’ve been doing the past two weeks and hopefully if I get out there, I get out there and I play,” he said. “If I don’t, then I’ll sit there and support.”
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