Ex-Ohio State defensive back Brendon White returns with Rutgers to play against Buckeyes

Bill Rabinowitz
Columbus Dispatch | USA TODAY NETWORK
Rutgers safety Brendon White celebrates after recovering a fumble against Michigan State.

When he was named the defensive Most Valuable Player in the Rose Bowl for Ohio State two years ago, Brendon White couldn’t have imagined ever playing against the Buckeyes, especially for Rutgers. 

Doing so under Greg Schiano would have seemed just as farfetched. 

Schiano was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator before his rehiring as Rutgers’ head coach in late 2019. He and White, an Olentangy Liberty product, didn’t always see eye-to-eye. 

“We butted heads a lot,” White said in a conference call this week before Saturday night’s game between the Scarlet Knights and Buckeyes. 

But White came to appreciate that Schiano pushed him out of his comfort zone. Schiano left Ohio State after the 2018 season, and White’s role in the Buckeyes’ defense diminished last year. He was supposed to play the “bullet” position as a hybrid safety/linebacker. Instead, the versatility of linebacker Pete Werner and Ohio State’s comfort with Jordan Fuller as a sole safety made White a spare part. 

White decided to transfer last December and soon reunited with Schiano for his senior year. White is fulfilling Schiano’s hope that he would be a building block in what will be a major reclamation project at Rutgers. 

Playing free safety, White has 17 tackles, an interception and fumble recovery in his first two games, an upset of Michigan State and respectable loss to Indiana. 

"Brendon’s doing a tremendous job,'' Schiano said. “From the day he got here, he was a leader on our football team. He works extremely hard. He’s extremely focused on being the best player he can be and helping others around him be that.” 

White, the son of former Buckeyes defensive back William White, said his relationship with Schiano has grown deeper. 

“Now I look at him as more than a coach,” he said. “He’s kind of like a father figure to me now. He’s someone I can talk to outside of football. When you have a person who not only is a phenomenal coach but is someone you can talk to besides football, that’s somebody I definitely want to follow.” 

White said he’s excited to return to play in Ohio Stadium, even if it’s on the other sideline. 

“There are a lot of familiar faces there that I miss, and I’m glad to see and compete against them,” he said. “I’m just glad to be able to play in the Horseshoe one more time, be able to play in my home state, and hopefully have some family come and watch.” 

Transfers are common in college football these days. Ohio State has no hard feelings about White’s departure. 

“It was just one of those things where he felt like he needed a fresh start,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I’m happy for him there, and Greg has done a good job of putting him in good spots at the free safety position. What they’re asking him to do fits his skill set really well. 

“He’s going to have a good career there. We’ve always really loved Brendon and wish him nothing but the best and think he’s got a lot of talent.”