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White takes joy in the process, looks for improvement each week

| Friday, September 13, 2019

It’s easy to look at a week one win that was a bit shaky in many respects and come out with a bevy of negative overreactions: “The pass rush wasn’t good enough,” or “Notre Dame won’t be able to stop Georgia’s run game if they play like that.”

It’s easy to dwell on some of these shortcomings. But it was week one. And these takeaways ignore some of the significant positives that came out of No. 7 Notre Dame’s (1-0) week one matchup against Louisville.

A number of guys stepped up in positions where the Irish need new playmakers, especially after the 2019 NFL draft. One of those guys was junior linebacker Drew White. 

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish junior linebacker Drew White tackles a Navy running back during Notre Dame’s 44-22 win over the Midshipmen on Oct. 27 in San Diego.

White was a key piece for a defense that looked admittedly shaky in the first two drives, but went on to limit Louisville to three points in the final three quarters. He tallied five total tackles, two of those for a loss, and one sack in the contest as he filled the role of the Mike linebacker. But this wasn’t the first time White had the chance to step into a key position on the defense.

Last season, when former linebacker Drue Tranquill fell victim to an ankle injury, White got the chance to step in against Navy, and he proved his ability to contribute to one of the nation’s best defenses by recording six total tackles. 

“[The week of last season’s Navy game] was really special,” White said. “Looking back on it I definitely wasn’t expecting it, but I was ready for it. You know, once I got back from some injuries, every practice I went out and just gave it my all. And I really respect [defensive coordinator Clark Lea] and all the coaches for seeing that in me. I really respect my teammates for believing in me. So, I went out there and just had fun with my teammates — it kind of was no different than the Louisville game.

“I would say [last season’s Navy game] gave me a boost of confidence. You know, I already believed that I was ready to play at the highest level, and I was just waiting for my shot. But, definitely the Navy game gave me a boost of confidence and showed me that I am ready. And it just made me look forward to the rest of the year, and it was really fun.” 

Nevertheless, after Tranquill recovered from his injury, White didn’t see many snaps the rest of the season. However, White said he wasn’t discouraged — he was just happy to have the opportunity to help his teammates secure a win. 

“I wouldn’t call it disappointment,” he said. “It was more excitement that I was able to help my team when they needed me, and I was ready. I’m always looking for the team. Tranquill came back from the ankle [injury], and I’m glad he did — he helped our team tremendously. So it wasn’t a disappointment. It was more excitement that I was able to get that shot and gain some trust.” 

White’s confidence in his ability is a key part of his success, and it’s something that becomes evident after only a few minutes of hearing him reflect on his game.

When asked about the defensive unit after the first two drives of the Louisville game, in which the unit looked lackluster, White said there was a bit of disappointment but the focus was on improving the net drive. 

“I think it’s a combination of a couple of things,” White said. “So, you know, it’s the first game of the season — you’re going to have some jitters. You can scrimmage all you want, but when that first game comes, it’s going to be a little different. It’s going to be a little faster, a little more difficult. I would say, with the new system [Louisville] had, with different coordinators coming from Appalachian State, there were some things that we didn’t see on film. So once we got those corrections and once we made those adjustments, I think the players and the coaches did a wonderful job of shutting it down. I think there was a little bit of disappointment [after Louisville scored its second touchdown]. But it was more of a focus on what we’re going to change, what kind of adjustments we’re going to make. There was no sort of panic on the bench.”

That confidence is also a crucial part of White’s own personal mentality as a leader of the defense on the field. 

“My personal mentality is to go out there and be the best person on the field,” White said. “I think confidence is key. So when I go out there, I’m looking to be confident, fast and physical. Something that I’m trying to work on and I think I’m improving on every day is to be the leader of that, you know being the Mike linebacker, and making communications, and having the defense follow my lead when it comes to communications, and adjustments and stuff like that. So, you know, my mentality is to be the leader and just have confidence and play physical.” 

White expressed how lucky he was to have some fantastic leaders above him at the linebacker position his freshman and sophomore years, and he’s thankful for the lessons those guys taught him on and off the field. 

“I’ve been really lucky since I’ve been here,” White said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve had good leaders linebacker-wise, all throughout my career since freshman year. So, [former linebackers] Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, and then this past year with Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill. I mean, those guys really showed me — and showed the rest of the young linebackers — what it was like, what it takes to be a leader of the defense, just a Notre Dame student-athlete in general [and] being first class all the way in everything you do. You’re not skipping meetings, you’re not skipping lifts, you’re not skipping class. … So, those guys really taught me that.”

All in all, White’s focus seems to be on improving each week. Whether that be in the form of becoming a more forceful leader at the linebacker position or watching game film on that week’s opponent, he finds joy in the improvement and in the process.

“I think this group is focused on the process more than the outcome,” White said. “Obviously, the outcome is going to pave its way itself. But we’re really looking at the process. We’re looking at just getting better every day, and I think this group is special. We have a lot of guys that are leaders. We have a lot of guys that bring effort and energy every day. So I think this past week really helped us to play the best football.”

The team is looking to get better each week, White emphasized.

“Yes we are looking to gain improvement, we are looking to play better than we did at Louisville,” White said. “But I don’t think it’s for anyone, I don’t think it’s for any of the fans, I think it’s for ourselves. Like I said before, this team is dedicated to the process more than any team I’ve ever been a part of. So we’re looking to get better every day, and we’re bringing that effort and energy to practice. I’m just looking forward to the next game.”


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