Sean McDermott couldn’t figure out what was going on with Tre’Davious White.
It’s not that the Buffalo Bills’ rookie cornerback was screwing up on the practice field. It’s that he wasn’t.
“Really, I’ve had to sit back in my office up there and ask myself why haven’t I noticed Tre’Davious, in terms of why am I not concerned about him?” McDermott said. “As a defensive coordinator I was a lot closer to the defense at times, so I’ve been asking myself is it because of that or is it because he’s just integrated himself so smoothly into the NFL and what we do? He’s mature beyond his years. Really, what we thought he was coming out of LSU.”
From the time he arrived in Buffalo, White has lined up with the first team. Not only that, he’s looked like the team’s best cornerback. That’s not a knock against fellow starter Ronald Darby, but rather an indication of just how good White has looked in practices — albeit ones without pads.
“He’s made plays on the football. He’s shown up in that regard in a positive light and when I look out there I’m looking at a player that – he plays like a second- or third-year player at this point,” McDermott said.
It’s fair to say that White has easily earned a passing grade in the eyes of McDermott, but he’s been a little harder on himself.
“That’s a tough one because I’m pretty much my own worst critic,” he said. “If I’m doing something well, I’m going to find something in my game that I need to work on, so I’m going to give myself a C+ for right now.”
That White has come into the NFL looking like a veteran shouldn’t be a total surprise. His college program at LSU produces defensive backs practically every year. In the last five years, there have been six draft picks from the LSU secondary, including Arizona star Tyrann Mathieu and Jalen Collins, a second-round pick of Atlanta in 2015.
“Credit to the program at LSU,” McDermott said. “Coach Dave Aranda down there and, Gill Byrd and Bob Babich here. I think Leslie Frazier’s background certainly helps, being a corner himself in terms of Tre’Davious’ transition into the NFL.”
White said those who came before him with the Tigers made the expectations clear.
“It’s a testament to the ‘want to’ that we have down there, and the tradition that we have as DBs,” White said. “Those guys who have come into the league and played a long time, they hold the young guys that’s at LSU accountable. That ‘Defensive Back University’ thing, we take it seriously. It’s like a fraternity.”
After the Bills broke minicamp Thursday, he headed for Baton Rouge, La., where he’ll train for the next six weeks with former Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Asked what his veteran teammates told him about this break before his first training camp, White said staying in shape will be his top priority.
“Make sure you train and come in in shape – that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “You don’t want to come in with any nagging injuries, because those things can last the whole season. If you come in in shape and ready to roll, in the right mindset, you’ll be mentally and physically strong, you’ll be fine.”
White had a hand in forcing a turnover during each of the Bills’ three mandatory minicamp practices. Despite that, he said he doesn’t feel he’s doing anything great – yet.
“It’s a lot of good, but there’s nothing that I’m doing great,” he said. “The speed is crazy. It’s just making it crazy. It’s helping my tempo and helping my game.”
Despite playing in the football factory that is the Southeastern Conference, White said the jump to the NFL level has been eye-opening.
“The competition level is next to none,” he said. “The speed is crazy. I thought coming from LSU, I would be pretty much ready, but you can never be ready for guys like Sammy Watkins.”
If White feels like he isn’t ready and is playing like this, Bills fans should be ecstatic about what he’ll look like when he feels like he has caught on.
"Continue to just be a student of the game, continue to just practice hard and prepare well and continue to ask questions," he said. "If I do that, I’ll be fine."