ATLANTA — After a sophomore season in which he led the SEC with 133 tackles, LSU linebacker Devin White has people talking.
That includes folks from the NFL. White’s name easily can be found on various 2019 mock drafts, with some scouts suggesting he’ll go as high as the No. 12 overall pick.
But for White, 20, who was named Monday to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, it’s not locked in that he’ll leave LSU after his junior year for the riches of pro football.
The decision won’t be White’s alone, he says. He’ll need approval from his mom, Coesha White-Standokes.
“I’m so close to graduating; I can’t leave there without no degree. That’s the main thing,” White said Monday at SEC Media Days. “I’m a guy who listens to his mother, so if my mother feels like it’s time, then it’s time. Just as well as (LSU coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda), because they play a huge part in my life. They’re like father figures off the field. That’s what people don’t get to see.
“I like being at LSU. I don’t got no reason to try and get out of there early, and I mean that from my heart.”
Can't see video below? Click here.
White, a preseason All-American, was one of three LSU players to make the trip to Atlanta for SEC Media Days. When he got word he’d be representing the Tigers in Atlanta, he was riding a horse. Unable to contain his excitement, he dismounted quickly and posted a video to social media.
The 6-foot-1 junior linebacker hasn’t always been in the spotlight. White didn’t start a single game as a freshman but was thrust into the spotlight as a sophomore. Besides pacing the conference in tackles, White also tallied 4.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and three pass deflections.
“To finally get his chance, he’s making the most of it,” teammate Rashard Lawrence said Monday.
Not only did White become a key piece of the Tiger’s defense, which was 16th in the country in points allowed per-game, but he also turned into a commander off it. After what White called an “embarrassing” loss to Troy, the Tigers rebounded to win six of their last eight games.
“Devin White became a vocal leader,” Orgeron said. “He is the reason that we got to turn around the season last year, along with his teammates. He’s done it before, he’s prepared to do it this year … Devin is ready to lead this team to great things.”
Lawrence said White is already talking about the Tigers first opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, and spent the flight to Atlanta talking game strategy for the Sept. 2 game in Arlington, Texas. White said he’s been lobbying special teams coordinator Greg McMahon to put him on the kickoff unit for that game.
“Because I want to be the first one to run down there and set the tempo for the game,” White said.
White told reporters inside a crowded room at the Omni Hotel that he wants to be the top linebacker in the country this season and the best to ever come through LSU. That goal might sound lofty, but it’s not impossible.
According to Pro Football Focus, White led all 2019 draft-eligible linebackers with 30 quarterback pressures and in pass-rush productivity with a 27.3 rating. The rating is based off a formula that accounts for sacks, hits, hurries and pass-rushing snaps.
“What I want to be and how great I want to be can’t be marked down on paper,” White said. “I have to be more physical, attack the line of scrimmage, make sure my footwork is 150 percent correct and strike offensive linemen and really have violence when I do it and get off the block and make a tackle.”
Depending on how this season goes and what his mom thinks, the NFL might have to wait another year. But the limelight won’t.
A toothy grin covered White’s face as he fielded questions in Atlanta about the Tigers’ quarterback battle, their preseason expectations, the atmosphere at Tiger Stadium and the upcoming season.
“I love the cameras; I love smiling in front of the media,” he said.
Aside from that wide smile, something else stuck out about White’s appearance. While Orgeron and the other LSU players donned a yellow or purple tie, White opted for pink.
“My mom just said she thinks this is the best-looking (tie), so I put it on,” he said. “I’m dressed the way she wants me to dress. I got my smile on. Everything is going well.”