By Trey Mongrue
In a perfect world, LSU’s Tre’Davious White would have been spending Thanksgiving Day at home amongst his family, chowing down on Turkey and all of the fixings that come with it – including a personal favorite, his mother’s cornbread dressing.
“I missed the home cooked meal,” lamented the sophomore cornerback from Shreveport. “When I got home on Friday it was all leftovers so it wasn’t the same.
But instead, White shared a holiday dinner with the rest of his LSU teammates and coaches on campus Wednesday before heading a state over to take on Texas A&M the following night. It was there that White and the LSU defense had a feast of a different kind, as they dismantled the Aggies’ offense en route to a 23-17 win to conclude the 2014 regular season.
“Our defense played awfully well on the day,” said LSU coach Les Miles afterwards, “minus a play.”
The play that Miles is referring was Texas A&M’s fourth quarter touchdown that pulled the Aggies within a possession with under seven minutes left in the game.
As has been the case for much of the season, the call on defense was for White to cover his receiver one-on-one with no safety help over the top, as was the usual calls for other LSU shutdown cornerbacks before him – Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne to name a few.
“That’s what you expect when you come to LSU, a lot of man coverage and bump and run,” White explained. “I feel like I’ve done a great job with it this year.”
When the ball snapped, White stuck with Aggie receiver Speedy Noil step for step, but the Texas A&M freshman made an outstanding play, jumping over White to make the catch before falling into the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.
“I’ve won more battles than I’ve lost.”
– LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White
– LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White
“I thought Speedy Noil made a nice play on that one catch,” conceded Miles. “But I like [White], I think he’s a heck of corner.”
In a snapshot, that one reception put a damper on what was otherwise another productive day at the office for White, who is quickly becoming one of the most feared cornerbacks in the Southeastern Conference after two seasons.
“I’ve won more battles than I’ve lost,” he said.
Standing at 5-foot-11 and clocking a 40-time of 4.38 seconds, White is tall enough to matchup physically with the tallest receiver and has the speed to keep up with the many flyers in the SEC. Going up against pass-first teams like Texas A&M are the games that excite him the most.
“As a defensive back those are the games that you get up for,” said White, who has been starting in the secondary ever since the third week of the 2013 season.
“It’s a challenge and it makes the game more fun for you because there are always going to be passes coming your way.”
White and the Tigers held Texas A&M to just 144 passing yards, its lowest total in its last three games. For the season, the LSU secondary has allowed just 162.3 yards through the air per game with opposing quarterbacks completing just 50.4-percent of their passes – the stingiest defensive record in the SEC.
Much of that is due to White locking down each team’s best receiving threat.
“Knowing that you have a cornerback like that who plays so aggressive, we can do a lot of different things on defense,” linebacker Deion Jones said of White. “He hates having passes caught on him.”
Even in practice, White can’t stand it.
“I take it very personal,” said White, who committed to LSU in 2013 as the top recruit in Louisiana following a successful career as a quarterback and defensive back at Green Oaks High School.
“I’ve always been a guy who tries to practice perfect. If I take it that seriously in practice, when it comes to game time, I’m ready.”
That much was evident a couple of weeks ago when White was matched up with the SEC’s premier receiver – Alabama’s Amari Cooper.
Despite the Crimson Tide’s win in Tiger Stadium on that November night, Cooper’s imprint on the game was not as big as it usually was for Alabama. The junior caught eight passes for 84 yards – his lowest output this season in games where he tallied more than eight receptions.
The duties in covering the Heisman trophy dark-horse candidate were split between White and junior Jalen Collins. Most teams this season opted to double team Cooper, but to no avail. When it was White’s turn, there was no double team. It was either sink or swim.
Cooper was targeted six times, making just one catch for seven yards with White on him.
“Going into that game, I was very confident,” recalled White, who has five pass breaks up this season after leading the team as a freshman with seven. “I won’t say it boosted my confidence because I’m a guy that is always ready, but I watched a lot of film and knew everything that he was going to do.”
With just a bowl game left in his sophomore campaign, White is now looking forward to the 2015 season. After all, it will be his junior season and another solid showing would likely make him a high draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
But that has barely just crossed his mind. Instead, he is only concerned with how he can improve to help out the Tigers’ defense next year. Among those things is becoming more of a ball-hawk, after recording just two interceptions this year.
“I still have a lot of things to work on,” said White, “I need to learn how to track the ball better. It’s something that I’ve been working on a lot both during and after practice and I feel like I’m getting better at it everyday.”
Be on notice, SEC. The best cornerback in the league is getting better.