First it was Defensive Line U. Then it was Wide Receiver U. Now, it's DBU. It's nice to be LSU, huh?
It's been an unbelievable run of talent in Baton Rouge, since the days of DiNardo on through the stellar recruiting classes Les Miles pieces together year after year. I'm not overly fond of the cliched "we don't rebuild, we reload!" but it looks more and more of a reality every season. Our standards are lofty, to be sure. 2012 is considered a failure. LSU won 10 games! 10 games! And we grumbled.
It's been a particularly impressive run at DB in the past several seasons. Here's a list of former LSU DBs currently on NFL rosters:
Ron Brooks (Bills)
Morris Claiborne (Cowboys)
Ryan Clark (Steelers)
LaRon Landry (Colts)
Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals)
Danny McCray (Cowboys)
Patrick Peterson (Cardinals)
Eric Reid (49ers)
Tharold Simon (Seahawks)
Craig Steltz (Bears)
Brandon Taylor (Chargers)
Curtis Taylor (Cardinals)
Corey Webster (Giants)
Let's put it this way. Since 2000, LSU has had 52 starting DBs (yes the the math isn't perfect due to rotations and all that, but based on your standard 4-DB alignment). 13 of them are playing in the NFL. Essentially, if you step onto the field to play defensive back for LSU either you or one of your three other compatriots is bound for the NFL. 25% of LSU's DB starters wind up in the league. It's a fairly astounding number. I've not taken the time to run these numbers across other schools and positions (but that may be a fun study for later), but 25% is alarmingly high.
More alarming? Of the 13 currently in the league, 11 played for the Tigers from 2005 to present. Only Corey Webster and Ryan Clark were not coached by Les Miles. Webster, Clark and Landry are the only three not recruited by Miles. Kinda turns the whole "Saban Jedi Master DB evaluator" on it's ear, a bit*. So if we ran those numbers from 2005:
Thus, we continue the tradition in 2013 with the signing of Mo Claiborne's god brother, Tre'Davious White.
*Before angry Alabama fans argue primacy with me here, there are currently 7 former Tide DBs in the NFL. Over the course of 6 seasons, that's an awesome 29% clip. Just not as awesome as what LSU has done.
Tre'Davious White was not a household name. He wasn't on preseason watch lists or a projected 5-star talent. Hell, he was hardly known locally. Sure, he was a two-way standout, that amassed 2,500 total yards and 28 total TDs playing QB as a junior. But he played for tiny Green Oaks, a blip on the radar in the college football recruiting landscape. White was looked upon as yet another dime-a-dozen HS stars that may have a future in college ball, but likely somewhere like Grambling or maybe North Texas. At least, that's what the recruiting outlets would tell you.
But he was no secret to Les Miles or many other coaches across the nation. White was extended an offer at LSU's annual Boys from the Boot. At the time he also had interest from Stanford, UCLA, even Harvard. Yes, Harvard. Why? Because Tre'Davious White is not only a stellar athlete, he's a honor student. A valedictorian candidate. That rare package of athletic and mental prowess.
He didn't commit to LSU on the spot. But just two weeks later, at LSU's Junior Day, he went public with his pledge and never looked back. At the time he held only one other offer: Mississippi State. So he was known, but not exactly coveted. That didn't last long.
By the end of his senior season, White donned 5-star status across two recruiting sites (Rivals & 247). Rivals ranked him the best player in the state of Louisiana and the no. 4 CB prospect in all the land. Their big argument for his previous low ranking was that he was previously a "WR prospect" and the "shift to DB changed everything." Well, I guess that's one way of saying you weren't paying attention.
He earned an invite to the U.S. Army All-American game. Then he showed up in San Antonio and proceeded to top the impressive performers list day after day. With that, White dispelled the myth of his small-school dominance, proving his talent stood on equal footing with the elite players in the land.
Oh and about those academics? While I can't find anything more recent, as of February he was still on track to be his school's Valedictorian with a 4.3 GPA. (also, read that story because he's awesome)
Watching Tre's tape is good fun.
The first thing I notice about Tre is that he can absolutely scoot. We can drum up the narrative about lack of competition all day, but the fact that he's absolutely flying by everyone on the field is a testament to this ability. CHeck out the first play at :05. I wish we could see the entire play develop, because he clearly shows great anticipation and athleticism here to go up and get that football. But once the ball is secured, he's playing with the house's money... no one will touch him.
Again at the :19 mark, it's a clear example of his speed and explosion. Notice at the end of his run there (about :25), he takes a little jab step at the 48, when it looks like he'd be brought down at the 50. Nope, he's pushed out at the other 44. A little jab step nets him eight extra yards. That's explosion. The clip also gives you some insight into his versatility. Tre brings return ability into the fold immediately.
One of the primary concerns I've seen people voice with Tre' is that he's slight of build (more on this in a second) and may not be physical. Click to :29. You tell me if that looks like finesse player. If you are still unconvinced, watch the 30 seconds of him tackling that follows. I'm not saying he's Ronnie Lott here, but there are times when you can tell a player doesn't like to tackle. I don't see White in that mold. He'll stick his nose in that when necessary. He's capable of delivering a blow. Oh and about that slight stature, I submit this as evidence. He's more than put together, especially for an 18-year-old true freshman.
Let's jump to the 1:30 mark. They even throw the play in slow motion for your utter enjoyment. This is the type of athletic ability that make White a special prospect. In a good corner, I value short area explosion and change of direction ability, much like I do for WRs. Long speed is the cherry on top, but plenty of successful corners make do without being Patrick Peterson. Fortunately for us, White has a little bit of all of that. Just watch him stick and cut, bounce it outside and take it to the house. It's raw, natural physical talent. The type you can refine into All-American play.
The thing is, I'm just picking plays at random here. I know it's a highlight tape and it's not going to show Tre getting run down by a 280-lb. DT or fumbling or whatever, but play after play after play you see elite explosiveness, speed in the open field. If he weren't such a damn fine corner prospect, he'd probably be a 2,000 yard rusher in Rich Rodriguez's offense. Ok, one more just for fun. 3:15. Oh man is he dead to rights at the 30. Until he pulls one of those Varisty-Blues-movie-highlight-runs and splits two defenders, dances to the outside and sprinkles in a TD for the helluva of it, because, well, what else was there to do?
What I love about him is that he's got a lot of heavyweight fighter to him. He's bobbing and weaving. He's ducking and jabbing. He can take a punch or twenty and right when you think you've worn him down he comes through the with the knockout punch. He's tough. He's physical. He's aggressive.
What I like: Everything. Seriously, Tre'Davious White is about the ideal corner prospect in my book. I don't like cookie cutter size distinctions, but there's been an awfully lot of great CBs go through the NFL at White's size. Throw in his overall athleticism and toughness and you have the makings of an All-American.
What I Dislike: Not much, really. He played both ways in HS, so I guess I could discount him for lacking full-time attention at CB, but that would just be stupid.
What I Don't Know: How quickly he will become a starter. Over/Under on 5 games?
Yes, yes and more yes. Billy wrote up the defensive backfield this morning, and he commented that White and Dwayne Thomas seem to be the principle competitors for the nickel role, but he also speculated that White could vie for time on the outside, allowing Mills to shift down into that nickel position.
I can see either scenario becoming reality. I really think White is ready to go out of the box, no assembly required. He'll certainly get a shot at STs at some point. He'll likely be in the DB mix depending on how well he shows out. I, personally, like him better on the outside because he does have that speed that Mills lacks.
Bottom line: much like Kendell Beckwith, White is a special talent. The type you can't keep off the field.
White is the clear-cut best player in this class... a class stacked with studs up and down it. It's cool that he's a topnotch citizen to boot, as that article from NOLA.com above testifies to.
On the field, he's a likely 3-year "starter" (even if he's never bestowed the honor this year, he'll play starter minutes IMO). Then he's headed for the NFL draft. I hate to get carried away in the praise, but I absolutely love White's game. The fact that he's known for having a stellar work ethic and being a level-headed kid makes me all the more bullish on his overall ceiling.
These pieces tend to be more positive than negative. I like to emphasize what a player will bring to the table and I try to be as fair as possible, despite my bias. In the case of White, I'll hitch my wagon to his superstardom. I'll go down with his ship. I hate lauding him that much, but man, I just see stud all over him. I felt the same about Patrick Peterson.