Once Rose Bowl MVP, Ohio State's Brendon White Waits to Play

OSU's new defensive scheme has squeezed out player who made big impact
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There are statistics to measure Ohio State's defensive improvement since last season and to reflect how deep the third-ranked Buckeyes are in talent.

But if you'd like to put a face on both those realities say hello to sophomore Brendon White.

White became a starter just past the midpoint of 2018 when the OSU defense was putting up all the resistance of a hut in a hurricane.

Inserted amid a closer-than-expected 36-31 win over Nebraska, White made 13 tackles to earn an immediate starting job.

He then stepped into the lineup and solidified the back end by making at least five tackles in each of Ohio State’s final six games, while also registering four tackles for loss, two pass breakups and an interception.

The interception and 49-yard return came in the Michigan game.

And although it doesn't count as an interception, White picked off a Washington two-point conversion attempt in the Rose Bowl and had eight tackles, two for negative yardage.

That earned him Rose Bowl defensive MVP.

And after all that, Brendan White has mostly sat and watched other guys play for the Ohio State defense this season.

The Buckeyes are that deep, that talented and that different, shedding their man-to-man coverage in the secondary for a zone defense that favors a three-cornerback look most of the time.

White, a safety a year ago, and now playing a hybrid safety-linebacker position that OSU calls, Bullet, played just 17 snaps Saturday in a 34-10 win over Michigan State.

He played 18 snaps against Nebraska and 27 against Indiana.

So in Ohio State's three Big Ten games, White hasn't played the number of snaps combined that he typically received after he won a job last season.

Style of opponent dictates what defense OSU plays  

"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."

White has been available during scheduled interview sessions only on Sept. 10, when he admitted to some frustration, but voiced nothing but an all-in attitude.

"It's definitely frustrating sometimes," he said. "At the end of the day, you have to know why you're here. You're here to win games. And whether I need to play, or I'm not playing, I'm still here to help my brothers win games and be there for them.

"We always talk about the brotherhood of trust. If I'm worried about not playing, then I'm being selfish and not caring about the team and putting the team first. In order for us to win, I can't be selfish. I have to put the team first, respect the brotherhood and respect my plays and snaps."

Team-first attitude trumps White's personal goals

White's selfless attitude is no surprise given the courage with which is father, William, has publicly battled a 2016 diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

William started four seasons in the secondary for Ohio State from 1984-87 and enjoyed an 11-year career in the NFL.

On Jan. 1, he and Brendon became just the second father-son combination ever to start a Rose Bowl, joining former Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Howard Cassady and his son, Craig.

 The chances for Brendon White to get more snaps don't appear promising in upcoming weeks, what with Northwestern on Oct. 18 and Maryland on Oct. 26 being Spread offenses.

"If you look at our guys that rotate in, I’d say he’s in there as much or more as anybody else,” OSU co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “And it’s early.

“...He changed from a position where he was a safety to where he’s a linebacker-type position. He’s getting better and better every week."