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Devin White Ready to Star for Tampa Bay

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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White has the skills to become a star and could be the emotional leader of the Buccaneers defense for years to come.

The 2019 season will likely determine whether or not Jameis Winston truly has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as head coach, who has helped develop and/or worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. If Arians can’t get Winston on the right track, he’ll officially earn the bust label this winter.

While questions remain about the long-term leader of Tampa Bay’s offense, the defense appears set with newly drafted linebacker Devin White from LSU.

The Buccaneers lost middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to free agency in March. After Alexander suffered a torn ACL in Week 7, Tampa Bay became one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

His departure left a big hole, but White will quickly fill that gap and may even prove to be an upgrade over the 2017 Pro Bowler.

That’s an amazing fact considering White split time between offense and defense before college. In high school, he played running back in addition to starring on the other side of the ball. At LSU, he simply just shined at linebacker, earning first-team All-SEC and Associated Press All-American honors. White also won the Butkus Award for the country’s top linebacker in 2018.

As a junior, he posted 123 total tackles, including 12.0 for loss, three sacks, eight quarterback hurries, six pass breakups and three forced fumbles. Statistically, White was just as dominate as a sophomore, posting 133 total tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2017.

Because he hasn’t focused on playing linebacker all that long, his instincts probably aren’t what they could be, but he’s shown rapid growth at the position in a short period of time.

Of course, speed always helps. White ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine, which was the fastest time among all linebackers. His rare speed will erase a lot of the early mistakes in positioning he may make as a NFL rookie.

In today’s pass happy NFL, fast middle linebackers are becoming the new necessity for every great defense. And in a division that features Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey, the Buccaneers needed a fast linebacker to cover those running backs. In four games, those two backs combined to post 28 catches for 281 receiving yards against the Tampa Bay defense last season.

Alexander, who, ironically enough, also went to LSU, was fast at his combine as well, but not quite as quick as White, posting a time of 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Although one-tenth of a second doesn’t sound like much, it could make a significant difference on the field.

Speed isn’t everything, but NFL.com also raved about his ability to learn and take coaching.

“White’s work ethic, competitiveness, and rare play speed are elements that can’t be taught and should push him into an early starter’s role and a successful NFL career,” according to NFL.com.

Based on the prospect rankings at NFL.com, White is the eighth-best defensive player in this class, but he was also a much safer choice than Ed Oliver or Jeffery Simmons. While safe, White also has the highest upside of any linebacker in this draft.

But not only was White a safer choice, he addresses a huge need for Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers losing Alexander is minimal after his selection because Tampa Bay managed to find a faster and cheaper replacement.

White has the skills to become a star and could be the emotional leader of the Buccaneers defense for years to come.