From off the radar to in-the-mix.
That’s a reasonable account of redshirt-freshman Ashton White’s standing in Notre Dame’s defensive and special teams plans over the last eight months.
A solid August Camp devolved into a season on the scout team for White in 2015, that despite an injury to projected nickel starter Shaun Crawford and in the wake of playing time from their cornerback classmate, Nick Coleman.
White was last in the position’s six-player pecking order entering spring ball and he might be no better than fifth now but still showed enough to guarantee heavy special teams duty this fall while hinting that he’s capable of more in 2017, regularly mixing it up with the Irish receivers during media practice viewings.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with White, a second-year player projected by special teams coordinator Scott Booker to be a major part of the Irish “Run Teams” in 2016.
A starting spot on three or four of the above-mentioned Run Teams (kickoff and punt coverage and return).
For deep reserves, trust in the eyes of the coaching staff is built and banked through special teams efforts. And with four seasons of eligibility remaining, that’s an ideal and realistic starting point for White, who won’t beat out Cole Luke, Shaun Crawford, or Nick Watkins (assuming he’s back from a broken humerus) and enters August behind Nick Coleman in the logical pecking order.
Third string duties dispirit White in practice and it shows in his special teams performance. The Irish Run Teams need more dedicated specialists and White has the footwork, tackling ability and quickness to make an impact.
Helping to replace the squad’s hands-down special teams player of the year, Matthias Farley, should be White’s singular focus as August approaches.
Which former redshirted freshman cornerback eventually became the best football player over the last 10-12 seasons? My vote goes to Mike Richardson who excelled as a fifth-year player in 2006 after struggling early in his career.
Other notables include Gary Gray, a player that fell from grace as a fifth-year competitor but ranked at season’s end as a Top 10 roster member as a senior for Brian Kelly’s first Irish squad in 2010.
You could add to the mix Terrail Lambert – solid but unspectacular.
In general, most cornerbacks that eventually start don’t first redshirt (per the coach’s decision) but there are exceptions.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
White was a three-star prospect, Scout.com’s 42nd-ranked cornerback overall in 2015. His redshirt season in 2015 was not unexpected among media members and analysts, though perhaps it was to him after flashing the potential for at least special teams playing time in camp last August.
If White’s a member of the four Irish Run Teams as projected, he’ll finish his sophomore season at the expected/acceptable career arc.
Thereafter, challenging for scrimmage time in 2017 would be a good sign for what could be a five-season stay in South Bend.
WHITE AT HIS BEST
The 5’11” 190-pound White showed well in an open scrimmage during April, consistently contesting Irish receivers downfield in one-on-one drills including a leaping strip made on a 50/50 ball vs. breakout spring star Kevin Stepherson down the right sidelines.
(White works at left cornerback, at present behind Crawford and Watkins).
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I think Ashton White has done a great job at corner. He is a very physical player.” – Defensive Backs Coach Todd Lyght midway through spring ball 2016