The No. 2 player on this list began his career at Ohio State as a linebacker, then spent time at wide receiver, then found a home at safety last season, and is now playing a position that didn’t even exist eight months ago.
No. 2 — Brendon White, Junior Bullet
Brendon White was a Buckeye long before he ever signed his letter of intent.
A legacy — his father William was a defensive back at Ohio State in the 1980s, White grew up knowing full well about OSU. (Playing high school football in central Ohio didn’t hurt either.)
White was the No. 3 athlete in the 2017 recruiting class and the No. 2 player in Ohio. He committed in October of 2015 because why wait.
He enrolled early and actually practiced at linebacker a bit during bowl prep prior to even enrolling. He was then moved to wide receiver when Noah Brown unexpectedly entered the NFL Draft. He spent the entire spring at receiver as a freshman, but moved to safety during the summer.
Last season as a sophomore, White watched as the Buckeyes went back and forth between Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint at deep safety before finally having to turn to him because of injuries and a suspension.
White’s first significant action came nine games into the season last year. In that game against Nebraska, all White did was lead the team with 13 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
He was in the starting lineup the rest of the season.
Over the final six games, White put up 41 tackles, which tied Tuf Borland for second on the team in that span, behind Malik Harrison’s 46.
This past winter, head coach Ryan Day brought in Greg Mattison and Al Washington to rebuild his defense, and part of that process was the implementation of the hybrid linebacer/safety spot known as the Bullet. Brendon White was given first crack at winning the job in the spring, and he succeeded. It will be his fourth — and probably final — position at Ohio State.
What He Does Well
Brendon White adapts well, be it on the fly on the field, or in life off the field.
It took him a while to see the field on defense last season, but once he was finally ready to be there, he never looked out of place.
Almost instantly, he was one of the Buckeyes’ best tacklers. He was able to come crashing down from his deep safety position and maintain control on run downs.
He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty good when called upon and he only got better. In fact, he was the Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl with eight solo tackles. He also had a clutch interception on a 2-point play late in the game to keep the Buckeyes up by five points.
Brendon White In 2019
The thing to know about the Bullet position is that Greg Mattison and Al Washington brought it with them from Michigan and it can lead to plays being made everywhere — especially in the backfield.
It is essentially the same position Jabrill Peppers played when he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
That season, Peppers finished with 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and one interception. The following season, his replacement Khaleke Hudson went for 82 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, and two interceptions.
Last year, however, Hudson’s numbers dropped greatly for some reason, as he finished with just 44 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, and no interceptions.
I told you all of that to tell you this: the Bullet for Ohio State could be the H-back for the defense. Versatility is a must for both positions and it could become a focal point for what they will have this Buckeye defense doing. The numbers put up by the Michigan defenders are the guide being used when thinking about what kind of production White could have this season.
Having Brendon White this high is almost entirely a projection of the way this position has been handled in the past, but it’s not done without the confidence that he can handle the blitzing, the reading, the reacting, and the coverage that will all be asked of him.
And it would not be a surprise at all to see him at the top of this list next year.
What They Are Saying
“I think we definitely put him in the best position for his skill level. We play a lot of man coverage and to do that as a safety sometimes you have to have the ability to play down on a slot. You have to play against a really good player and sometimes safeties can’t do that. therefore you come with packages where Pete Werner is an outstanding football player. Him playing outside of the box might not make him as good a player where Brendan might be, so you come up with what we’re calling the Bullet position where he can cover that guy.” — Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison on Brendon White.
“We’re trying to make him that position and that’s not always easy, especially when you’ve had a lot of success playing zone coverage as a free safety. Now you’re playing a lot of man coverage so we say how can we make it best for him? The thing I’ve really been proud of is ever since the spring and we had a very good conversation about this about what he must do to improve what he has to do to be the successful player we want him to be and he’s been all in. I’ve noticed in the workouts he’s working really had so I’m really excited about him.” — Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison on Brendon White.
“It’s a dream come true. Hard work definitely pays off. But I still have to have that chip on my shoulder because anyone can take that Bullet spot. Jahsen Wint’s right behind me doing that spot as well. So I’ve got to go out every day acting like it’s my last day of practice so I can keep that position.” — Brendon White on having this position geared towards his skill set.