Big game has White in mix to start at safety

Tim May
Ohio State safety Brendon White helps push Nebraska receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. out of bounds on Saturday, one of his 13 tackles in the win over the Cornhuskers. [Tyler Schank]

After a breakout performance in an emergency last week, safety Brendon White is in the running for a starting job at safety as Ohio State prepares to play at Michigan State on Saturday.

“Absolutely he is,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday. “I just met with the defensive staff to get an update on that. They’re going to split reps, and I’m sure they will both play. But who starts will be determined by this week.”

“They” are the sophomore White and last week’s starter, redshirt freshman Shaun Wade, who gained the nod for the first time in place of an injured Isaiah Pryor (shoulder).

But when the other starting safety, Jordan Fuller, was tossed from the game against Nebraska because of a targeting foul, the coaches had to swing Wade back down into the nickel back role again when situations called for it, and move White and Amir Riep into the safety spots.

>>VIDEO: Ohio State's Brendon White: In contention for starting safety

White was named the defensive player of the game by the coaches after tying for the team lead with 13 tackles, some of them key stops. From there, his campaign for starter, regardless of the competition, was born.

“Shaun Wade and him are in the rotation,” Meyer said. “Isaiah Pryor is back being healthy, and he’s also battling. We do have some depth there now. … White or Wade will probably get the start, but once again, that’s why you go out and practice, to see who has the best week.”

It’s up to White to convince the coaches, led by co-coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch, that he deserves the job, or to at least stay in the running.

“I’m not going to try to change anything,” White said after practice on Tuesday. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and that’s going hard every day, having that eagerness to want to be great and having my teammates be great, so that at the end of the day whoever gets the starting job, the coaches made the right decision.

“If it’s me or it’s not me, at the end of the day I want the team to win.”

Whether the inconsistency that plagued that safety spot opposite Fuller the first half of the season will be solved by the two new players competing for it remains to be seen. The way White played against Nebraska makes one wonder why he wasn’t in the running much earlier.

Grinch said White has proven himself by “what he’s done over the course of the season, continuing to improve, continuing to earn our trust” by taking advantage of opportunities in practices and on special teams. “In fact, there was a text I sent him on Tuesday night (last week) that it was the best practice he ever had at Ohio State‚” Grinch said.

“So it’s not coincidence that all of a sudden, one, he finds himself on the field, and two, he performs well. … I’m excited for him, excited for us, and we’ve got to obviously continue to get better.”

That’s the plan, White said. He came to Ohio State as an all-purpose athlete from Olentangy Liberty who has been on both sides of the ball in search of a position. He might have hit on it.

“Be patient, trust in the Lord, your time will come,” White said of his approach. “Don’t give up, because when give up and you get the opportunity like this, you will not be ready for it. So I just stay focused and stay ready to go.”


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