Who is this guy?
If you don't know Devin White by now, I don't exactly know what to tell you. The team drafted him fifth overall in last month's draft and he is the first inside linebacker taken by the Bucs in the first round since Derrick Brooks in 1995. That should give you some clue as to how special this kid is.
At LSU, White won the Butkus Award, was named Team MVP, a Permanent Team Captain, consensus First Team All-American and First Team All-SEC – just in 2018 alone. He led the SEC in total tackles with 123 and had 12.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and six pass breakups last season for the Tigers. He also forced three fumbles, recovering two of them. The best game of his career came against Texas A&M in 2018 where he registered 17 (!!) tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss, plus he forced a fumble. There really isn't anything he doesn't do. Throw in the fact that LSU is already known as 'Linebacker U' and those stats become even more impressive.
White finished his Tiger career with 286 total tackles in his career with 8.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, one interception, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. His accolades and awards are far too many to list but now it becomes how that success translates to the NFL.
What are they saying about him?
Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht:
"We're extremely excited about Devin and have been for a long time. He's a fast guy but that's not the reason we took him, alone. He's a physical guy. He can pressure with his ability to blitz. He's one of the better blitzing linebackers we've seen in a long time. He can also cover and last but not least, he's a tremendous person, leader, very smart and you'll feel his energy right away.
Devin White was our guy. Those were some good players, still, but we went through that exercise for the last however many weeks that if this scenario came up, we were still going to take Devin.
Devin's a linebacker but he's also an attacking player. He's a pressure-type linebacker. He can get to the quarterback as well."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles:
"It was impressive. Obviously, he's a bright kid. He lights up the room when he walks in. The film speaks for itself and to have a player like that, we're just happy to get him in and get to work."
(On how much Bowles relies on linebackers to create pressure)
"Well, they are part of the front, but if we're getting there with the interior guys we won't Blitz. If we aren't getting there with the interior guys, we'll blitz a little bit. So, it's a 3-4 and a 4-3. A lot of the league is played in sub-personnel anyways, so we'll have four down quite a bit."
Inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell:
"I know the other coaches know my excitement and they're excited also. Just the person we're getting and the player we're getting. We're just ready to get him here and let his personality show. He's a guy that's a leader, a guy that's a proven play maker and we're just looking forward to him coming in here and continuing to do what he's been doing all his life."
What can he do?
The question should be what can't he do. It really is incredible how quickly White can read and react on the field. How quickly he's able to diagnose the play and then how quickly he's able to get there because of how fast and athletic he is hardly seems fair most of the time. Take a look at the 6:14 mark in the below video. He's sitting back reading the quarterback and virtually as soon as the quarterback decides where the ball is going, White is already in pursuit. He dumps it off on 3rd and 15 on a short screen and White comes from off-camera to take down the receiver. It's incredible
At 4:34, he gets a tackle in the backfield as the quarterback fakes a run but pitches it at the last second. White isn't fooled at all and is there to greet the receiver as soon as he makes the catch.
He gets into the backfield a lot. Whether it's like the said play where he's getting to a running back or receiver behind the line, or he's blitzing up the middle. Yeah, he can do that, too. In fact, it usually takes a very hefty sized defensive tackle to stop him, or a double-team. If you don't have either of those things in place or you happen to miss, watch out. Check out 6:51 and you'll White penetrate the line in a hurry on his way to the quarterback. Licht said he's a pressure-type linebacker. That, like White, comes through loud and clear.
His ball awareness stands out, too. He's always trying to make a play on the ball. Take the 4:40 mark in that highlight reel, where he rips the ball out as he makes the tackle – behind the line of scrimmage, mind you.
All these wonderful things and there has to be some caveat, right? Sort of. I've noticed that he tackles high. More often than not, he wraps guys up anyway, but It can cause him to miss on occasion. It also causes him to lose leverage when he gets engaged with a blocker. Those instances, again, are few and far between, but at the NFL level will have to be cleaned up if he indeed wants to be the greatest linebacker to ever play the game like he says.
View some of the top photos from Bucs LB Devin White's first day with the team.
How can he fit in?
The Bucs will look to the rookie out of LSU to captain the middle level of the defense right away. When you get done running through the awards, accolades and talent, you get to perhaps his most special quality: his leadership ability. He was clearly the leader of the LSU defense and wherever he goes, people follow naturally. He may be a rookie but he'll have to shoulder a pretty big load when it comes to the Bucs' defense. It's a scheme that thrives on communication. It's vital, in fact. White will have to act like a vet and not be afraid to call out what he sees and get his teammates, whether veteran or rookie, in line. It'll be a familiar role for him, luckily. He was named a 'Permanent Team Captain' at LSU in both 2017 and 2018. Taking him fifth overall tells you that the Bucs envision him being able to play the same role at this level, too.