"It's been the biggest change, in a positive way, since I've been here," White said of Smith and the new coaching staff. "Coach Melvin, I remember the first time talking to him I asked him what he brought to the table. He told me he brought physical and tackling. Those were the most things I needed to work on. I'm glad him and coach Cheese (Charlie Harbison) came."
Playing in 31 career games with just three starts in three years, White had just 34 total tackles heading into the 2013 season. With senior Chris Davis and junior Jonathon Mincy earning the starting spots at the cornerback position in preseason, White kept working to get into the rotation in addition to his duties as the holder fo rthe Tigers in the kicking game.
When sophomore Jonathan Jones was injured in the preseason and Josh Holsey's move to safety was solidified with the loss of Demetruce McNeal, the Tigers needed White to step into a major role this season and head coach Gus Malzahn said the senior has done that.
White notes when he took a critical look at his body of work during his collegiate career that he realized he wasn't reaching his potential. "It was very tough but, once again, I had to look at myself and see what I was doing wrong," he said. "I just had to work on those things. All things happen for a reason."
Ryan White scores on a two-point conversion run vs. Washington State. He also passed to Brandon Fulse for a two-point conversion play vs. Mississippi State.
Playing sparingly in Auburn's season-opening win over Washington State, White saw his playing time increase in week two against Arkansas State when Davis went out with an ankle injury. He responded with four tackles against the Red Wolves, but the best was yet to come.
Getting his first start of the season against Mississippi State, White tied for the team lead with eight tackles against the Bulldogs.
He also nearly came up with the play that everyone would have been talking about this week instead of the Nick Marshall to C.J. Uzomah touchdown pass. Late in the game White made a break on a pass in the flats and just missed picking off the pass and running it in for the touchdown. He said for him it was all about preparation and study.
"I just know the splits," White said. "Splits tell you everything in this game and me and Coach had been watching a lot of film. I noticed their split was a little more reduced and on that play they like to run the out. I was kind of hesitant with it and I should have just played my keys so I could haven't taken that to the house. They would have been talking about me for a few more days. That's just what it was. It was a good play call and I tried to execute it the best I could."
It was part of a stellar fourth quarter on defense for the Tigers as they allowed just 79 yards on 18 plays to the Mississippi State offense to seal the victory. White said the team's fourth quarter success this season is all about the work they put in during the offseason with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell.
"It started with coach Russell in the weight room this summer," he said. "We talked about finishing and if you see us before the fourth quarter starts, we hold up our fists for four. We pride on finishing and the defense takes more pride in it."
While Auburn's defense has played well in terms of keeping people of out of the end zone, allowing just 17.7 points per game, one of the things that continues to be a problem is big yardage plays. Allowing almost 24 first downs and 433.7 yards of total offense per game, the Tigers have played with fire so far this season and White said they have got to get it straightened out before they get burned.
"Giving up big yards really comes from explosive plays," the senior said. "I think Coach Johnson said we had three plays that went for like 215 yards. If you take those plays away we're one of the top defenses in the country. We're going to try to focus on the little things once again to try to take away those explosive plays."
That will be a huge challenge this weekend as Auburn faces of one of the most explosive offenses in the country as LSU has weapons all over the field. With quarterback Zach Mettenberger off to a great start, a pair of talented receivers and a physical running attack, White said Auburn's defense has a real test coming on Saturday night.
"I think we need to work on us some more," the cornerback said. "If we perfect everything we're supposed to, I think we'll come out with a win. It'll be another hard-nosed game, another physical game. I think after this 3-0 and win we just had against Mississippi State, we're riding pretty high on confidence and we think we can go down and beat those guys."
Saturday's Auburn at LSU game will start at 6:45 p.m. CDT from Baton Rouge and will be televised on ESPN.