COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brendon White has heard the comparison and understands where it comes from. After all, it was less than four years ago that Darron Lee arrived on Ohio State’s campus as a local product with high hopes for his college career.
Rather than run from the lofty standard, White has embraced it as he begins his career as an early enrollee in the Buckeyes’ highly-touted 2017 class.
“I like that a lot,” White said of the Lee comparison on National Signing Day. “He’s a first-round guy, starting for the New York Jets. I mean, who can go wrong being in the first round? So I’ll be excited with that.”
There’s just one problem. Just like Lee in 2013, White arrives at Ohio State unsure of what position he’ll play in his college career. In fact, if you met him on campus, he says right now he’d introduce himself as a wide receiver rather than linebacker — the position most have projected the No. 3 athlete in the 2017 class to play at the college level.
Don’t worry, if White does indeed wind up in wide receiver coach Zach Smith’s “Zone 6,” he has a comparison prepared for that, too. And just like the likening to Lee, it doesn’t exactly set a low bar for his college career.
“I like Michael Thomas,” White said. “Michael Thomas is really, really good. He has good hands. He ran a 4.6 (40-yard dash). I ran a 4.56, so we have a good comparison. We both have strong hands. It took him a long time to learn his routes, and I feel like I can do the same thing.”
Reporters chuckled as White unflinchingly compared himself to the ex-Buckeyes wideout who just caught 92 balls for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints. If White were to play running back, one gets the sense he’d have no problem touting himself as the next Ezekiel Elliott.
But for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound White, living up to lofty expectations is nothing new.
An Ohio State legacy, Brendon grew up in the shadow of Ohio Stadium and considers Buckeyes great Cris Carter to be an uncle. His father, William White, was a four-year starter as a defensive back at Ohio State in the late 1980s and spent 11 years playing in the NFL.
Brendon wasn’t even midway through his junior season at Olentangy Liberty by the time he had committed to the Buckeyes. And while he — like most of his classmates in Ohio State’s historic 2017 class — has NFL aspirations, he also has other goals for his college career in mind, thanks to his dad.
“He was a captain, so I want to be a captain,” White said. “He was an almost 4.0 (grade-point average) student. So I told him my two goals here are to be an academic All-American and eventually be a captain here.”
Whether he’d be an offensive or defensive captain still remains unclear.
When White arrived at Ohio State in December in time to practice with the Buckeyes during their bowl preparation, he did so as a linebacker. But following Noah Brown’s surprising departure for the NFL, Urban Meyer turned to the early enrollee to fill the void of a big bodied receiver in the OSU offense.
He’ll likely begin spring football as a wideout, but as he’s already learned, plans can change. He already has two different jerseys in his locker — one for each side of the ball.
“Right now, I don’t really know,” he said when asked which position he’ll play. “I’m just working out, working hard. They’ll put me where it best fits me so I can be successful.”
Despite so much uncertainty clouding the start of his college career, this much is already clear: Whichever position he winds up playing, White will hold himself to an NFL standard.
“The hard work definitely paid off for me,” he says of fulfilling his dream of playing for the Buckeyes. “Right now, I’m just soaking it all in and taking advantage of it. Just working hard so I can be able to make an impact on this team and hopefully go to the next step — that’s the NFL.
“That’s why I came here.”