Two days after his breakout performance against Nebraska, Ohio State safety Brendon White was a big topic of conversation at Urban Meyer’s weekly Monday press conference.
The sophomore safety was selected the defensive player of the game against the Cornhuskers after he tallied 13 tackles, more than twice as many as he had in the first eight games combined.
White’s success begged an obvious question for a team that has been inconsistent at best on defense all season: Is anyone else lurking on the bench who could provide the eighth-ranked Buckeyes a lift this Saturday at No. 24 Michigan State?
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Meyer confirmed that thought had crossed his mind and also that the path to playing time remains the same as ever.
“The best opportunity is at practice to come show yourself and get going,” Meyer said.
After that, a player’s best bet is to be noticeable covering kickoffs or punts.
“You can see on special teams, Josh Proctor did a heck of a job for us on the opening kickoff or the second kickoff,” Meyer said. “(There are) other guys coming on, Teradja Mitchell and some other guys are doing very good for us in special teams.”
Proctor and Mitchell — both highly touted members of the 2018 recruiting class — would not be the first players to use standout performances on special teams to earn more playing time under Meyer.
That’s the way the head coach likes it — “Practice, special teams and an opportunity to play on defense,” he said.
As for White, the decision about whether or not he will move into the starting lineup full time had not been made yet. When it is, it will come from safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
While junior Jordan Fuller established himself as a starter at safety last year, the other spot has been problematic all season.
An injury to Isaiah Pryor, who has had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, opened the door for redshirt freshman Shaun Wade to start opposite Fuller last week with White joining the nickel package.
When Fuller was called for targeting in the second quarter and ejected from the game, White became a full-time player — at least for one afternoon.
There was no injury update on Pryor on Monday, but Meyer said White has earned the right to play more.
“That was coming,” Meyer said. “His practices have been very good the last couple of weeks and Coach Grinch made that clear in front of the team after the game. But he’s certainly earned the right to be on the field.”
Grinch and the other position coaches generally decide who will play, but of course Meyer is the boss so he can overrule anyone if he wants to.
He seems to prefer to trust the process.
“I watch that closely,” Meyer said. “And it’s a matter of practice. You have to do it. You don’t just throw a guy in a game. And if he’s practicing and earns the trust of his coaches, like he did Saturday, you’ll see more playing time.”
In addition to White, four defensive players graded out as “champions” against Nebraska: defensive linemen Dre’Mont Jones, Jashon Cornell and Jonathon Cooper, linebacker Tuf Borland and cornerback Damon Arnette.
On offense, the “champions” were running back J.K. Dobbins, tight end Luke Farrell and receivers Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell while the entire offensive line — tackles Isaiah Prince and Thayer Munford, guards Demetrius Knox and Malcolm Pridgeon and center Michael Jordan — shared the offensive player of the game distinction.
Linebacker Keandre Jones, who blocked a punt that rolled out of the end zone for a safety, was named special teams player of the game.