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If you haven’t been paying close attention and just enjoying Ohio State’s much-improved defense through the first six games of 2019, you might not have noticed that last year’s Rose Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player has rarely been on the field for the Buckeyes.
After playing almost exclusively special teams for the first eight games of last season, White eventually made an impact for his team at safety alongside Jordan Fuller. Starting with the Nebraska game on Nov. 3, White became a starter, seeing no fewer than 53 snaps in a game from there on out, culminating in his eight-tackle, two-tackle for a loss performance against Washington in Pasadena.
Conventional wisdom was that White, a junior, would build on the Rose Bowl performance, setting himself up for a breakout season this year. A change in defensive coaches and scheme appeared to make that even more likely, as the new Buckeye staff created the “Bullet” position, a hybrid linebacker/safety role.
When Ohio State’s first depth chart of the new season came out, White was the starter at Bullet, yet played just 19 snaps in the season-opener against Florida Atlantic, according to Eleven Warriors’ snap count. The following week, a 42-0 blowout of Cincinnati, White saw his snaps decrease to 15.
“It’s definitely frustrating sometimes. But at the end of the day, you have to know why you’re here,” White said following that Week 2 game. “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, putting the team first. In order for us to win, I can’t be selfish. I have to put the team first and respect the brotherhood and respect my plays and snaps.”
Part of what kept White off the field in the first two weeks of the season was the style of the offense the Buckeyes faced. The Scarlet and Gray expected more run-heavy offenses against the Owls and the Bearcats and went with true strongside linebacker Pete Werner in both contests.
Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Thursday’s notebook talks about the decision for Jack Miller and introduces a trio of young stars with Ohio State interest.
Jack Miller will return to field, Ohio State The rumors around the status of commitment Jack Miller are swirling a day after the offer from Ohio State to C.J. Stroud became public.
The internet is a wild place. Miller’s social media profiles are being scrutinized with people concerned that he no longer makes mention of the Buckeyes on his Instagram profile. Others have noticed the removal of the “Ohio State commit” verbiage that adorned his Twitter profile, while ignoring the fact that his pinned tweet has him 100-percent committed and “Go Bucks” on it.
This situation between Miller and Ohio State is going to be complicated, and that’s why first-year quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich was in Arizona on Wednesday visiting with the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior quarterback. The goal of the visit was to reiterate what the message has been for months, that the Buckeyes are working hard to put together the best roster they can and the hope is that it includes both Miller and Stroud.
It was also a chance for Yurcich to see Miller on the field for the first time in a while, checking out practice as the nation’s No. 11-ranked pro-style quarterback prepares for a return to action Friday after missing the last month of games with an injury.
For Miller and Yurcich, it was a chance to talk about the offer to Stroud and to reconnect about the plans for all sides moving forward.
That plan includes, according to Jack Miller Sr., a trip to Ohio State in two weeks for the family.
“We will head up there for the Wisconsin game to meet with Coach [Ryan] Day,” the elder Miller told Lettermen Row.
Ohio State hosts local standout Gabe Powers Last weekend, the Buckeyes welcomed in Marysville 2022 standout Gabe Powers for a game-day visit for the first time. He previously tripped to Columbus in August, where he spent some time with Day and linebackers coach Al Washington. He didn’t get much time with the coaching staff on Saturday night, however.
“I didn’t get to meet with Ryan Day last weekend,” Powers told Lettermen Row. “I left the game early because I had film study early the next morning. I have had a good one-on-one meeting this summer when they invited me down for a visit, though.
“[Al] Washington has told me I have a bright future and said I am one of the best sophomores in the state. He said I remind him of Khalil Mack and that he is looking forward to seeing me more in the future.’
Against Indiana in Week 3, White expected to see more snaps against a spread offense that likes to throw the ball. He did, but White was only on the field for 27 plays.
This trend continued into the bye week with White playing 16 snaps against Miami, 18 snaps against the Cornhuskers and 17 snaps against Michigan State last Saturday.
“He's in there,” head coach Ryan Day said when asked about White. “He's working at it. He's learning that Bullet position. He's had some good snaps, had some snaps he wants to improve on.”
Looking at it on the surface, it appears White is simply the victim of a numbers game on Ohio State’s defense. Not only is Werner playing a lot and playing well but the Buckeyes have also used more three cornerback looks with Shaun Wade who has played nearly two and a half times the number of snaps as White.
As Day said, White is still working on the transition from safety to this hybrid linebacker position but co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison likes what he’s seen from the junior.
“He's not getting as many reps maybe as he got last year when he was starting at the free safety position at the end of the year,” Mattison admitted. “He's playing the Bullet/Sam backer position, which is a one-player position. And if you look at our guys that rotate in, I would say he's in there as much or more than anybody else.
“He changed from a position where he was a safety down to a linebacker-type position. And he's getting better and better every week. And in games that we’ve played so far, I think of Nebraska and I think the others, he had a number of reps, and he will continue to get reps.”
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The goal of the Ohio State defense was to get better in 2019. The Buckeyes have done that and then some, establishing themselves as one of the best defenses in the country through the first half of the season.
In order to reach these heights, the Scarlet and Gray became more multiple, able to defend different offensive looks without having to substitute. While many thought Brendon White’s role would make him an impact player because of his versatility, the Buckeyes have been able to handle whatever has come their way with others on the field more often.
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14 COMMENTS While White is disappointed and may feel like the odd man out, he is staying patient, working in his new spot and his coaches believe in their Bullet from his snaps in the games.
“Brendon is doing a good job in terms of learning the position,” Day said. “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.”