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In da Film Room presents, (my best friend) Devin White

A closer look at LSU’s superhero linebacker.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Things I’ve learned in the past week:

  • How to make Kraft dinner. You’d think a 30-year-old would know this by now but alas it did take this long.
  • How to feel like a complete shithead because you made a snarky comment about college football player on twitter and then said player found the tweet and was no happy.

For a guy, who coaches college football and deals with 18-20-year-olds almost on a daily basis, I should not be making snarky-ass comments about how they can’t tackle. It’s hard to keep the fact that these players are kids in perspective when we prop them up as superheroes so it’s always good to be shot down to earth every once in a while.

The superhero who shot me out of the sky: Devin White.

I was talking shit about Devin White’s tackling ability and he found my tweet and was not happy. White is a really good linebacker but coming from his background as a running back, his tackling technique is really really bad. Still, I shouldn’t have written, “Devin White actually just doesn’t know how to tackle yet”. Very snarky, very dumb. Anyways, Devin slid into my DMs and we actually hashed it out.

I ended up asking a question about the scheme that they were running on defense and Devin was gracious enough to answer.

And now we’re best friends.

Anyways, let’s dive into the tape of our star linebacker so we can gain a fuller understanding of what kinda kid LSU has at the heart of their defense coming into 2018.

White’s main weakness, as noted, is his tackling. He runs at ball carriers too high and tries to knock them out too often. He throws his body at their chests instead of wrapping them up at the waist/hip.

The new technique being taught seemingly everywhere is called a hawk tackle:

He ranked 213th in Pro Football Focus’ tackling efficiency metric. Just because he racked up a lot of tackles doesn’t mean he was a sound tackler.

There are a lot of examples of him being in position to make a play but coming up short. Even when he does get credit for a tackle, you can see the technique lacking like in this stop against Mississippi State:

Same thing against Arkansas:

The tackling should improve since he is still new to the position. If you were a freak athlete you’d want to destroy peoples souls everytime you had a chance also.

Another area of concern is that he (and the other linebackers to be honest) are very aggressive. Certainly there are some benefits to this coaching aspect that Aranda employs but you will see White overrun certain plays or not come under control fast enough like in this play below:

The overagressiveness has been a component of Aranda’s linebackers for a long time. They really try to get downhill in a hurry and sometimes that means getting within the gravitational pull of offensive linemen. As linebackers get smaller and more athletic, I’m not sure you want them taking on offensive linemen head on but that’s less on White and more on Aranda’s philosphy.

This is from a trusted source:

We’re gonna get into Aranda’s defense in a different post.

Those are my main issues with White. Here are the things he does well.

He’s great in man coverage. Aranda played a ton of what he calls his Under-1 defense. That’s just man free coverage with some interesting rules that we’ll get into, again, in a different post.

This is a great play against Notre Dame.

The “in phase” versus “out of phase” technique refers to where the defensive player is in relation to the receiver when the ball is thrown. A player who is “in phase” means he is close enough to touch the receiver and can therefore play the ball in the air and try to get an interception. “Out of phase” means he’s not touching the receiver and he needs to run through the receiver to the ball.

Another man coverage play here where Ole Miss is trying to run a little misdirection but White is having none of it.

Again, we’ll get to what KEY is in another post.

White is also a coaches dream at linebacker because he’s consistently taking on blockers with the right leverage.

In the clip below, he’s job is to take on the puller and force the ball carrier back inside by playing outside on the pull block. He does this, forces the ball back to his teammate and then gets in on the tackle also.

On the contrary, here’s a similar gap scheme run at Donnie Alexander who allows the QB to get outside.

He’s also very good at knifing into the backfield when he sees a double team and gap opens up.

Big play here to get to the running back against Mississippi State.

Overall, becoming a better tackler will help White tremendously. Let’s hope his continued improvement as the season came to an end in 2017 (his words) sees him turn a corner in that regard for 2018. With White, you know he’s going to get to the ball, what he does there is the big question. Having two studs, Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence, in front of him will help tremendously also. I think that Tyler Taylor probably starts next to him. I’ve seen some really good from him. Jacob Phillips has a little while to go in terms of diagnosing plays so I think Taylor has that spot almost locked down based on the returning players.

White and Taylor, 2018 should be really fun.