Kyzir White Ascends Quickly to Leadership Role for WVU
By Kevin Kinder
WVU safety Kyzir White is in a bid of an odd situation. He’s clearly established himself as a leader on the West Virginia defense, but he doesn’t have the years of experience on campus that players like Al-Rasheed Benton have to draw upon. Still, he’s embraced that role, and sees a lot to like from the young safeties in the program.
“It is kinda weird because I just got here last year,” White said. “I’m fairly new. But being that I played a lot of games last year and got a lot of experience, I’m looked upon to be a leader. I’m ready to take that role.”
Ascension into a leadership role can be built on several different foundations. Long-term experience is one, an outgoing personality is another. For White, it’s also performance on the field. Those that show they can play, and understand the nuances of the game, earn automatic credibility with younger players. There’s no fooling them in that regard – those inside the game know who is good and who is getting it done. Thus White, who had 58 tackles in 2016, is high on that list.
White’s ability ranged across the board. Seven of those stops were for losses. Four were sacks, and he also broke up five passes and forced two fumbles, including the memorable hit on Texas quarterback Shane Buechele that turned away a point blank Longhorn scoring opportunity. Put in that playmaker position, he has responded.
“In the defense we are in, we get a lot of opportunities to make plays,” he said. “I had some earlier chances in that game where I got in the backfield but didn’t get to him. On that one I kind of saw it coming and just tried to hit him as hard as I could.”
Those are attention-grabbers, and coupled with his overall play he has gotten that from the up and coming safeties on the team. Freshman Derek Pitts earned some early kudos for his play in the spring, and there are a host of freshman who are just beginning to learn the ropes, including Exree Loe, Ricky Johns, Collin Smith, E.J. Brown and Kenny Robinson.
“The younger guys are real eager to learn,” White said. “They are hungry, and they work hard. They just have to pay attention and focus on the little things and pay attention.”
With five weeks of preseason prep time before the opener against Virginia Tech, there’s still time to develop some of that young talent. At White’s spur position, it might be difficult to gain time, as he and fellow senior Marvin Gross figure to gobble up most of the snaps. There’s the future to consider, though, as some of these younger players will have to fill at least backup roles next year. That’s on White’s mind, but for now it’s anticipation of the season that is taking precedence.
“This is our opener, We haven’t talked about the rivalry too much. I’m just excited for the first game.”