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Returning Player Refresher: Jarell White

White started the final five games of 2018 and was among the best tacklers on the roster. All signs point to even more starts and production in 2019.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Cincinnati at UCLA Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jarell White didn’t have to wait very long to get a chance to become a key member of the defense for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He hit the ground running in 2017 and built on his success during the 2018 season.

Although it was a quick ascent, White really reached the summit during the second half of 2018. He played in 12 games as a true freshman and appeared in all 13 last year, but he wasn’t always given first team reps. That all changed when the calendar flipped to November. In their first game of the month against the Navy Midshipmen, White made his second start of the season. He would go on to start every game from there on out, including the thrilling 35-31 win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl.

It was during this stretch of five games that White played some of the best football of his career. After racking up eight tackles against Navy, he recorded back-to-back games with double-digit tackles against USF and UCF and added a pair of tackles for loss in the process. While these two games may have been the high point of his season, there were plenty of other bright spots, such as when he had nine tackles, including one for loss, against Ohio and when he collected his first career interception against UConn.

White finished the season with a career-high 58 tackles. He did a better job of taking care of business by himself as well, tallying 36 solo stops. Such a mark was an exceptional leap from what he did as a freshman when he was primarily effective as a supporting tackler with 29 assisted tackles and 17 solo stops. Along with your run-of-the-mill tackles, White was able to create havoc in the backfield on more than a few occasions in 2018. He recorded seven tackles for loss, which more than doubled his total from the previous year (2.5).

His tackling work wasn’t just impressive compared with what he had done previously. It also stood out amidst the entire UC roster. In fact, other than fellow linebacker Malik Clements, nobody had more tackles than White. He also tied with Clements and James Wiggins for the most solo tackles on the roster and made major contributions to UC’s tackle for loss total, which ended up at 82 and was 24 more than 2017 and the most by a Bearcats team since 2013.

White still has areas he’ll need to improve on. Most specifically, the junior linebacker could show a bit more effective work on the pass rush. To this point he has just a half a sack to his name. In addition, he has shown solid work in coverage but with the expectation that he will play even more in 2019, he’ll need to ensure that he can make a consistent impact in such situations.

Last season was a major step forward in White’s career, both in terms of production and playing time. It’s worth noting that he got more opportunities partially due to necessity as first-team all-American Athletic Conference linebacker Perry Young missed time throughout the year. However, it would be folly to believe that White was only playing because the Bearcats were backed into a corner. As he proved with his production, White very much belongs on the field as much as possible. In his junior season, he will undoubtedly be given such an opportunity and if the last two years are any indication, his play will improve in parallel with such an expansion of his role.