Brendon White's Late-Season Emergence Will Help Ohio State Overhaul Its Beleaguered Secondary

By David Regimbal on January 31, 2019 at 1:30 pm
Brendon White
Eleven Warriors

Ohio State was confident when it took its seven game winning streak and No. 2 ranking to West Lafayette, Indiana for a primetime matchup against a three-loss Purdue squad last October.

The Buckeyes had a pair of big-stage road wins under their belts against far superior competition in Penn State and TCU (Arlington, Texas wasn't a neutral site and you can meet me in the comments if you're feeling tough and want to fight). All they needed to do was take care of business to reach a much-needed bye week.

Then David Blough and Rondale Moore happened.

Ohio State's secondary was shredded by the Boilermakers, surrendering 378 passing yards, nearly nine yards per attempt and three touchdowns against no interceptions. The Buckeyes gave up a (then) season-high 49 points in the stunning 29-point defeat.

After the game, former head coach Urban Meyer was asked about the adjustments he planned to make during Ohio State's off week.

“I don't know if it's blow up,” Meyer said. “Once again, we're 7-1 and we've got to get the chance to be 8-1. That's the only focus. But there's some serious shortcomings right now we've got to get fixed...

“A bye week gives you a little bit of time. Week 8, 9, you're into it now... That's hard to do right now, to make drastic changes when you're dealing with a banged-up football team.”

By the time Ohio State suited up again, this time at home for a showdown with Nebraska, Meyer hadn't made a significant personnel change. But the defensive staff had their hand forced when Jordan Fuller was ejected early for targeting, so they turned to Brendon White.

The true sophomore was recruited out of Olentangy Liberty High School as an athlete, and during his first two years at Ohio State, he shifted from offense as a wide receiver to defense as he tried to find his place on the roster.

And in his first significant action, it didn't take long for White to prove he belonged on the field.

Ohio State's defense still struggled against the Cornhuskers, giving up 450 total yards and 31 points in a closer-than-it-should've-been five-point win. But White was absolutely everywhere, recording 13 tackles, eight of which were solo, to go along with two tackles for loss (all team highs). 

His coach was blown away, and expressed as much after the game.

“Brendon White came in and did a hell of a job,” Meyer said.

But for White, it was a moment he envisioned for a long time.

“It is a dream come true. Hard work pays off," White said. “We all prepared for this. You never know what is going to happen in a game. We all face adversity, we faced it the right way and in a positive manner. No one got worried, we did our job and the rest took care of itself.” 

White's consistency gave Ohio State's defense a huge boost down the stretch. Over the Buckeyes' final six games of the season, the 6'2", 210-pound ballhawk finished in top five in total tackles in each contest. 

And in Ohio State's biggest game of the year against Michigan, White picked off a Joe Milton pass and returned it 49 yards to set up Ohio State's final score of the day in the fourth quarter.

That's the kind of playmaking ability the Buckeyes' secondary desperately needed last year, and as co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley work to overhaul a unit that ranked 86 nationally in passing yards allowed, they can use White a foundational piece of the unit.

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