To no one’s surprise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their first-round pick on LSU junior inside linebacker Devin White. There are a lot of ways the fast and physical 240-pounder can help the Bucs defense on and off the field, aside from being the tackling machine he was at LSU while posting an average of 128 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss over the last two years, earning him All-American honors in the process.

Here is a look at five ways White can help turn the Bucs defense around and bring it back to the glory days when Tampa Bay had one of the best and most feared units in the NFL under former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Off-Field Leadership

The Bucs view White as a “culture-changing leader,” and that’s one of the reasons why they valued him so much as a prospect. Tampa Bay’s captains on the defensive side of the ball in years past have been defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. McCoy has never been much of a vocal leader and has shied away from that role, choosing to lead by example instead. David is the same way, although last year’s injury to Alexander, who was the fire-starter on defense, forced him to step up in the role of vocal leadership.

Alexander’s departure in free agency prompted the Bucs to find a new “heart and soul” of the defense to replace him, and that’s the role the team envisions White to play in Tampa Bay. White was the heart and soul of the Tigers defense and a tremendous leader. He absolutely loves the game of football and he’ll be the new face of the Bucs defense.

On-Field Leadership

The middle linebacker position carries a lot of importance due to the fact that the MIKE linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. White has only played three years at the linebacker position after being a running back in high school, so he’s still learning the nuances of recognizing offensive alignments and making adjustments.

LSU ILB Devin White – Photo by: Getty Images

But White is a quick study and demonstrated the ability to make the calls on the field at LSU. In Tampa, White will play alongside David, who has had to be the quarterback of the defense several times throughout his career with the Bucs under different head coaches and defensive coordinators. Having a veteran linebacker like David alongside him will aid White’s development in this area.

Perfect Scheme Fit

New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles brings an aggressive, attacking style of defense to Tampa Bay that will suit White’s skill set perfectly. Bowles asks his linebackers to play down hill in his one-gap scheme, and White thrived in a similar role at LSU, evidenced by 28.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his three years with the Tigers.

Aside from being an able blitzer and run-stuffer, White also has the range to drop in coverage. He broke up nine passes and intercepted one at LSU, and was a bit of a ballhawk with three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. White is only 20 years old and has tremendous upside. He’s an absolutely perfect fit in Bowles’ scheme and has the versatility to play all of the linebacker positions in Tampa Bay’s new defense.

ILB Is A Position Of Need

The departure of Alexander left a glaring need at the inside linebacker position. The Bucs found some temporary help with the re-signing of veteran Kevin Minter, another LSU linebacker that has played in Bowles’ scheme before, in addition to the signing of Deone Bucannon, who is also familiar with Bowles’ defense having played in it in Arizona during the 2014 season.

But Minter and Bucannon were signed to on-year deals, and the Bucs also can’t count on two other inside linebackers in Jack Cichy, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and Kendell Beckwith, who is still trying to make his way back from a serious ankle injury in the 2018 offseason that cost him all of last season. White gives the Bucs a stable presence in the middle of the defense, and considering the fact that this year’s crop of inside linebackers is rather shallow from a depth and talent standpoint, it made sense for the Bucs to address this need right out of the gate in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

White Brings Speed To Tampa Bay

One of the things that new head coach Bruce Arians and Bowles wanted to do to improve Tampa Bay’s defense was to add more speed to the unit. In an NFC South division that has speedy foes in Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, the Bucs need athletes on the field that can cover and track down those potent weapons.

White blazed a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and is the fastest linebacker in the draft. That speed allows White to be a three-down linebacker that doesn’t have to come off the field. The 2018 Butkus Award winner earned a 90 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, and his 91.7 grade in coverage was actually higher.

LSU ILB Devin White
LSU ILB Devin White – Photo by: Getty Images

In the end, the selection of White won’t be appealing to all Bucs fans, as some wanted the team to draft a defensive tackle like Houston’s Ed Oliver or a defensive edge rusher like Florida State’s Brian Burns or Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat instead of an off-the-ball linebacker. Yet if Carolina’s Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly and former legendary linebackers Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis were re-drafted today, those star ‘backers would be selected much higher than they originally went in their respective drafts.

The inside linebacker position is incredibly important for the reasons stated above, and due to the team’s switch to a 3-4 scheme, which calls for more able bodies at the linebacker position. The Bucs seemed to have found an elite player to man the middle of their defense in White.

Let the culture change begin with White leading Tampa Bay’s defense.

Watch White’s LSU highlight video and White’s interview on ESPN’s First Take below.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

40 COMMENTS

  1. Have to trust Bowles to mold this defense into a fast attacking unit. Good luck D. White and welcome!

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  2. Well hes a buc now, so I will root like hell for this kid. But there is no doubt I wouldve taken Josh Allen. This is going to get interesting as well really need a d tackle too.

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  3. I love the guy. Great leadership, Great Athletics. But still, we passed on Allen. I cannot believe it, and the comparisons for the next 5 years will be non-stop. Bucs telegraphed this pick for over a month.

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    • Bucs were in a win win situation when Oakland went on the clock with Allen and White both on the Board. When the Raiders took Clelin Ferrell I was like. Either pick would be great. I was in the Devin White camp because I saw more versatility there than with Allen. Allen knock for me is he has a speed rush and not much else. You can get away with that in college. NFL OT are very good and unless you can keep them guessing what your going to do snap after snap you aren’t going to have much success.

      White will have a more immediate impact IMO

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  4. This kid is everything you want in the middle of your defense. Day one starter, impact player every Sunday, great pick. He will compete for rookie of the year. Welcome to the Bucs!!!

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    Rating: +31. From 35 votes.
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  5. Passing on Allen stings hard. I have to admit it.

    Lets hope White can transform the culture on defense to be more tenacious.

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    Rating: +28. From 32 votes.
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  6. White’s a stud, not doubt. Will make us better.

    Still think Jason Licht wasted this pick to replace Kwon when he should have locked him up last year. We lose the opportunity to draft Josh Allen, leaving another hole open that could have been filled.

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  7. ROTY

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  8. Leave it to Scott to write an article defending Jason Licht. I think this might be his 509th by now.

    Devin White is a good player. He will probably make a Pro Bowl someday, but he doesn’t rush the passer. Josh Allen rushes the passer. If White and Allen both develop into the players we expect then you want the pass rushing Allen over the ILB.

    For years the Bucs have been without a pass rusher. Last year we acquired JPP who immediately got 12.5 sacks. The problem is JPP is 30 years old. Devin White is a good pick for next year. Josh Allen maybe be the better and more valuable pick 3-4 years from now (long after Scott’s friend Jason was fired for being the worst GM in Bucs history).

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    • you really need to do some research on how Todd Bowles run his defense. Go back and watch the Cardinals Packers playoff game in 2015. Watch the attacking style defense. Allen is a Boom or Bust prospect. Devin White will be a very good player for 10 years barring injury.

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  9. White is going to be starting alongside David. Hard to imagine a year ago this scenario. Both exciting and uncertain to be honest.

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  10. Ok! Time to man up and get with the program. ILB Devin White is a Buc! To be honest, not my pick but he is now and I’m all in. Anybody that could win the Butkus Award is a pretty good player. So Devin White and your horse Daisy Mae, welcome to Tampa! Go Bucs!

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    Rating: +31. From 35 votes.
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  11. White is a better player than Allen! Tampa got their next Derrick Brooks! 10 year starter… may not be the sexy pick to some. But solid indeed! Good job Bucs!

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  12. Have to trust Bowles with improving the team speed on defense.

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  13. I love the pick and am so happy we grabbed him!

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  14. I truly hope he becomes the game changer we need on defense..Allen would have been great, but white will probably be able to come in and make immediate impact at his position since there’s more of a learning curve for pass rushers..just wreak havoc White and I will be one happy fan.

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    Rating: +21. From 25 votes.
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  15. Macabee, I’m right with you. There’s nothing wrong with White; I just thought DE was the priority, but I can understand the pic. Go Bucs. Who do we take in the second round?

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    • White is the perfect fit. He meets a need and was the top player in the draft at his position. He is not a one trick pony, either. JPP is not done yet and Nassib is also a very capable edge rusher. Next year we can draft an edge with our late 1st round pick as JPP’s eventual replacement.

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  16. The beautiful thing about out first pick is we got great quality at a need position and we have a very deep draft for defensive tackles. I feel confident we the Bucs will still find a quality pick to fill that defensive tackle need.

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  17. His fiery leadership on D is gonna be important, having lost Alexander. Hoping that couple of the returning players, like Spence- if able to stay healthy- will be able to step up as far as the pass rush goes. Always fun to listen to the Pewter Report guys while drinking beer and getting work done, rather than parking my ass in front of a TV and watching the national broadcast

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    Rating: +9. From 9 votes.
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  18. Bucs number one greatest defensive and team need and best player available, WIN, WIN! Please quit thinking DE or OLB are more important than ILB. If you have EVER played ball, MLB is the QB of the Defense, and for that matter the heart and soul of the entire team. Absolutely in different stratosphere than Kwon, who has always been overrated. (Thanks to John Lynch for preventing us in making expensive mistake if we had resigned Kwon.) Devin White has crazy skills for MLB, yes, he does rush the passer and is highly efficient when rushes, check out his player ratings as a rusher. The Bucs actually made the safest and no brainer draft pick without screwing it up. Now that is a new day in Tampa! Go BUCS!

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    Rating: +9. From 19 votes.
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  19. If this guy can be a Luke Kueckly, we are set.
    All of the experts say he can.
    I didn’t like his gab about all the money he will make in 4 years down the road but he did tie it in to how well he was going to play at the NFL level.
    McCoy was never a leader which is one of the reasons this teams defense has floundered for the last 9 years. He couldn’t lead a group of men into a strip club.
    No offense to David, but he isn’t suited to the role either and never was.
    Bush is said to be more of a Winston type alpha male leader that this unit has lacked for years.

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    • White looks to me to be a bigger, faster Keuchly. This is a great pic for us, Go Bucs!

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  20. I’m sure White will be a fine player but this just solidifies the effort Jason Licht has been making to utterly devastate this franchise. We could be lining up for the next 5-10 years with Kwon Alexander and Josh Allen, but instead have a single guy we hope will grow to be as good as Kwon Alexander. How can anyone defend this GM anymore?

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  21. U mean White???

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  22. I will of course root for White. But I really wish Licht understood positional value. The reason Kwon was so valuable was because he was a 4th rounder, which is a good round to pick a middle linebacker. The 5 pick is not. Whether it is a run stuffing NT in the 1st round, a RB who can’t block or catch in the 2nd, a kicker in the 2nd, we don’t seem to realize it is 2019 and not 1989. It is a passing league. And we don’t seem to realize it.

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    • Your talking about a 4th rounder who was going to take $59 mil. to keep, and one who over pursued on most plays? Is that the “valuable” 4th rounder your talking about?

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      • *Edit* Typo – I meant $54 Mil., my bad…

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  23. Congrats Devin White and Buc fans! Think we got a great playmaker to make Bowles’s scheme work! Somebody Bowles can coach from the ground up to lead this defense! I’m much more satisfied seeing Minter backing up Devin White than Riley Bullough backing up a starting Minter. Minter will push him though because he has experience with Bowles! GO BUCS!

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  24. White’s high tackling is a concern, but leadership and playmaking are needed on defense. Speed is a good way to create that playmaking. I think this is a deep defensive draft and the second round is full of first round candidates and the third will be filled with lots of 2nd round candidates. Still need a DT, DE/OLB, and CB

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    Rating: +6. From 10 votes.
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  25. Nice to see folks accepting the choice of Devin White and not overdoing the woulda, coulda, shoulda retorts that are all too common nowadays. Time will tell if he was the BPA. In my view the biggest need on this team was and is to bring some swagger and ‘tude. That is what White possesses in addition to his love of football, maturity and noteworthy speed. Those are traits that can’t be taught. Looking forward to seeing him and Lavonte flashing sideline to sideline.

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  26. You’re out of your damn mind SR, White was not the right pick. Josh Allen was.

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  27. Arians comments were “picking a player based upon need will get you fired” yet that is exactly what we did instead of taking the BPA. This I think will unfortunately spell the demise of Licht and at this point I think it is deserved.

    No shot against White but a #5 for ILB is a bad call. I hope I am wrong but this just feels wrong….

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  28. Spin it however you want, this isn’t a great pick. It’s not a bad pick, White should be a productive player, but this is bad positional value for the fifth overall pick. Especially considering Josh Allen and Ed Oliver, two elite dlineman, were staring the Bucs in the face.

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  29. Everyone thought the Bucs would draft White or Allen, and they both fell to them. They picked White. I know a number would have rather they picked Allen but at this point they are both very good player and the Bucs most likely won’t lose with either.

    Bucs first round picks last 5 years
    2018 – Vita Vea – showing signs of being a good pick
    2017 – OJ Howard – a very good pick
    2016 – Vernon Hargraves – showing signs of being a good pick – but needs to stay healthy
    2015 – Jameis Winston – shows signs of being a franchise QB but this year is going to show if he is or isn’t
    2014 – Mike Evans – tremendous pick

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    Rating: +5. From 9 votes.
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  30. I like the pick, but as usual with, our GM my dissatisfaction is with where we picked him. I was hoping to trade down and get him at say number 10.

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  31. Kram0789 – that would be a risky approach. There were teams that wanted to trade up for a QB (e.g. Washington) but going down to 17th would have been too low. The Giants were not going to trade because they had the next pick, and they knew that they could get the QB they wanted with it.

    Jaguars were not going to move as they got Josh Allen staying where they were.
    Lions don’t need a QB so won’t going to move
    Bills may have traded but did not have much to give up on their roster – or in draft picks.
    Steelers don’t trade picks ever – and did not this year either.

    So the problem remains – do you risk moving to 15th and getting another pick (and not the impact defensive player you want) or stay put? The bucs decided to stay put.

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  32. The Steelers did trade picks to move up to get an LB, Bush. They probably would have grabbed White if he was still there. Trading down would have surely cost us on getting one of our prime players. White is a great pick for us. Sure, I hoping to get Quinnen, White, or Allen. I can’t help but think about what Luke Keuchly did for the Panthers, and I believe White will be all of that and more for the Bucs. Go Bucs!

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  33. I’m happy, can’t wait for the year to begin.
    Go Bucs !!!

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  34. DE is always a risky pick in the draft because as you noted they are not going against OTs for Central Idaho State. It usually takes at least a year for the ones who pan out to start putting up numbers. OTOH, it seems LBs make the jump a lot faster to the pros.

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