Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter

Drew White Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot ¼, 227 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Technically speaking, White has two seasons of eligibility remaining, though him using that sixth season would be a surprise. Only so many of those can be considered, despite the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Depth Chart: White will presumably start as Notre Dame’s middle (Mike) linebacker in 2021, but senior Bo Bauer will increasingly turn that into a timeshare.
Recruiting: Initially pursued by Brian VanGorder, the consensus three-star prospect still signed with the Irish after VanGorder’s mid-season firing in 2016, replaced by Mike Elko from Wake Forest. Elko was not upset about inheriting White, given he once offered him a Demon Deacons scholarship.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
This quote might be more of a paraphrasing, but it is not inaccurate.

If this space were less charitable, it would suggest White pick up a ski hill or snowboard sponsorship once NIL legislation is in place.

CAREER TO DATE
That was a not-so-subtle and entirely unnecessary dig, but one that is also meant as a good-natured shot that can be offered given how things have turned out for White.

After preserving a year of eligibility as a freshman in 2017, he saw action in four games in 2018, making eight tackles, six of them coming against Navy’s triple-option offense. That specialty showcase set White up for a chance to impress in 2019’s spring practices, particularly with Notre Dame needing a new starting middle linebacker.

Instead, a skiing accident injured White’s shoulder, costing him most of those spring practices and setting him back in the starting competition. Yet, by the fall, he was indeed the starter.

White has started the last two seasons, thus making that skiing reminder more a feel-good result than a cautionary tale. He took 460 snaps in 2020, despite it being a shortened season and Bauer replacing White on most passing-specific downs.

2018: 4 games; 8 tackles.
2019: 13 games; 80 tackles with eight for loss including two sacks.
2020: 12 games; 56 tackles with nine for loss including 1.5 sacks.

QUOTE

2021 OUTLOOK
White should again start for the Irish, providing veteran and experienced leadership in the middle of new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s system. He may even be a captain.

But White will also see a touch less playing time as Bauer’s should only increase. Bauer is simply better both in coverage and in blitzing, while White is best at filling running lanes and playing assignment-correct defense.

Those traits will keep White near the top of Notre Dame’s tacklers for a third consecutive season, and should lead to more tackles for loss for a third consecutive season.

DOWN THE ROAD
Recruited by one defensive coordinator, signing with another coordinator and becoming a starter under a third coordinator, White’s career has not followed any expected path. The skiing note only underscores that; if he had not become a starter in 2019, that shoulder injury could have been seen as costing him his career.

Now White will finish under a fourth defensive coordinator. Combining that path with the fact that he already has his degree in hand, and White returning in 2022 becomes very unlikely.

The Irish will have a renewed scholarship limit next year, and there should be other options at linebacker. As steady as White has been the last few years, turning to Bauer in a starter’s role supported by incoming freshman Prince Kollie or junior JD Bertrand would serve Freeman just fine.

It is hard to envision much of an NFL career for White. Coverage skills are a must at that level — see the lack of traction for Te’von Coney as evidence — and White lacks the footspeed for that ask. But starting for three years at Notre Dame is certainly nothing to scoff at, not to mention the captainship possibility.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played