"Men at some times are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
-Cassius, Julius Caesar, 1.2.139-141
I’m not much one for destiny. I don’t believe in fate. I’m not sure everything or anything in life has a purpose or a meaning. What life does present is a never ending series of choices, some less perplexing than others. Even things that seem rote and mechanical are truly choices we repeatedly make. It’s not every day you ask yourself if you will get up and go to work that day; you made the decision to do that back when you accepted the position. Sure, we all face that exact decision from time to time, but mostly, that’s a given.
At other times we are faced with the peril of making life altering decisions. You know, the type of thing that completely changes the course of our lives into a new direction: having children, a cross country move, a career change.
While Cassius is most certainly the villain of Julius Caesar, it’s important to understand that he believed he was in the right. Yes, he betray Caesar. Yes, he manipulated Brutus. But Cassius saw a even worse, more oppressive, tyrannical future and sought to obstruct that action. In the end, perhaps he wound up with that anyways, but what Cassius held was the firm belief that we can change our destiny, that it is not written into the stars. But we must act. We must make a choice.
And so for Devin White the choice is not to betray his best friend, but his dream.
Sometimes dreams are interrupted by cold, hard realities.
How Did We Get Here?
The story above is the story of Devin White, a high school phenom before he even stepped football on a HS gridiron. LSU offered him in June before his Sophomore year. Alabama followed suit a month later. Is it any wonder why these two teams dominate the recruiting trail year in and year out? White starred as a sophomore, racking up nearly 2,300 rushing yards, a single season total higher than any Leonard Fournette ever achieved (level of competition ignored here).
White grew in stature and grew in report. At 6’0" and 250 pounds he looked like a college junior yet still had three semesters worth of HS to finish. Speculation immediately abounded that White would be another vintage LSU vs. Alabama recruiting battle. White routinely visited LSU but sprinkled in visits to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and others. Throughout the process, White was praised for his versatility, yet he routinely stated he would like to play RB.
In November, White was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old. A month later, White ran afoul of the law again, this time for "careless operation of a vehicle and misdemeanor flight of an officer." White was dismissed from the Under Armour All-American game. His recruiters did not relent. Deep into the process Ole Miss became a significant player. Then Arkansas. White visited Arkansas on December 4th. A week later he took in Baton Rouge.
White set his announcement date on January 8th, 2016. By now, the writing was virtually on the wall. White both announced for LSU and that he would be graduating and enrolling early. Like with Rashard Lawrence, LSU’s early diligence paid off.
What Can He Do?
Weight: 255 pounds
Short Shuttle: 4.36
Powerball Toss: 39.0’
Based on pure measurements, there may not be a better athlete in this signing class than Devin White. 247’s Director of Scouting Barton Simmons gawked at his impressive numbers. His overall SPARQ put him just outside of the top 10 of all prospects at the Opening in 2015. What truly makes White impressive is how fast and fluid he is for a 255 pound player. You expect players with his body type to be powerful, sure, but they can rarely combine with the speed and quickness attributes. For White to be able to Powerball Toss better than most defensive lineman (only a foot and a half behind Rashard Lawrence) and then run the 40 time of an above average RB is truly remarkable.
At 6’1", 255 pounds (LSU listed height and weight, but not far off his "official measurements from the Opening last Summer), White is built like a brickhouse. He’s 2 inches shorter and 4 pounds heavier than NFL stud pass rusher Khalil Mack. This guy’s got a body that’s built ready to play.
Strengths: Raw Athleticism, Power/Size, Nose for the Ball
Weaknesses: Experience, Coverage, Weight, Character
Raw Athleticism: The whole tape is evidence, but plays like the one at 3:31 of his Senior reel are the type of plays you don’t expect a 260-pound person to make. More importantly, tape measure athletes don’t always translate onto the field. Running fast and jumping high is great, but throw on a pair of pads and do it around a bunch of guys trying to crush you. Devin White’s athletic tools translate. He’s not just a gym short freak.
Power/Size: What else would you expect? There’s no finer example than the :16 mark of the Senior reel when White lowers his shoulder and sends a LB into orbit. For an ILB, he’s near ideal size to me. I like my ILBs in a 3-4 to be squatty and powerfully built. This aids them in playing the leverage war, but also means they won’t be easily trucked "little guys." His frame is college ready.
Nose for the Ball: LB is a position played from the gut. Yes, there’s knowing alignments, knowing your keys, and on down the line. But the best LBs always have great instincts. White seems to me to be a guy that has a great feel for the flow of the game. The first play on his reel, :10 into his Senior reel, he does a great job tracking down the football and bringing down the ball carrier for a loss. :24 in the Senior reel is another example, where he actually fights through a block and tracks down the ball carrier for another loss. 1:07 on his junior reel is another good example of his ability to recognize the flow of the play and find the ball carrier.
Tackling: White hits like a ton of bricks. On his Junior reel, :04 in, you see him get a solid wrap-up and drag down type of tackle with some violence to it. But the next clip, at :18, shows the type of authority he can deliver on the inside.
Experience: White played LB as a sophomore and a junior and racked up nearly 200 total tackles. That shows some knack for playing the position, but high tackle totals don’t always equal great LB play. Specifically, White is going to have to learn the art of sorting through trash. As a former RB, he won’t be contact shy, like some safeties that wind up playing LB. But White will have to learn the finer points of using his hands to disengage blockers and working through all the bodies to find ball carriers. It’s a lot to pick up.
Coverage: There’s nothing here to judge on. He does show good lateral agility, but the ability to open up the hips to turn and run is kind of a unique trait. Most dudes can either flow into it pretty naturally or they can’t. At LB, it’s a trait you can make up for (unlike, say, CB), but we can’t be sure what White will look like in a deep zone drop at this point. I’m not sure he’ll be asked to do that a ton, but it is a facet of LB play.
Weight: White already tips the scales around 260 pounds, and that’s really about the max weight he should pack onto his 6’0" frame if he hopes to remain at LB. He’s got big arms and a naturally thick build, but he is a little soft in the middle. He could likely shred himself down to about 245 and still keep and excellent power base and possibly improve his overall mobility. The main concern for he and Tommy Moffitt is making sure he doesn’t bulk up too much and stays within a good playing weight.
Character: Look, I’m not gonna throw the kid to the wolves because of a pair of indiscretions, though it’s an illustration of poor young decision making. His sexual misconduct case must still go to court. Speculating on this is a matter of folly, so my only hope here is that justice is served. All we can hope is that he puts this type of immaturity behind him. As the summer winds on and White is exposed to more college life, the temptation will be rife. There’s a major opportunity for him here, so he must stay focused.
Devin White’s first hard choice is made. He showed up in Spring and began working at running back, only to be quickly moved to linebacker. He took to the position well, leaping up to the first team prior to the team’s first scrimmage and then leading the team in tackles.
Considering LSU remains in desperate need for capable bodies at the LB position, it’s almost a shoe-in that White can have a starting position this fall. Many predicted that job would fall to Michael Divinity, his fellow Spring enrollee, but White seems to have leapt him in early discussions. Divinity’s future home may be on the outside anyhow and White is certainly a more natural fit on the interior, where LSU has a real need next to Kendell Beckwith.
White’s brilliant future is right within his grasp, but what lies ahead is the tough stuff. He’s made one hard decision, but now he has a million more. Can he remained focused and out of trouble? Can he learn Dave Aranda’s playbook? Can he stay trim for the LB position? How bad does he want this? These aren’t the type of questions that will be answered in one practice or over night. No, these are the type of decisions Devin White must make every day. He’s already betrayed his dream; now let’s see if he can build a better one.
High End: Multi-year starter, potential All-American and 1st round draft pick.
Low End: Multi-year starter.
Realistic: All Conference player and future draft pick