AUBURN, Ala. — Slipping on a different identity has never been a problem for Ryan White.
The senior arrived at Auburn as a quarterback in 2010, the same class as Cam Newton. Shortly after, White switched positions and settled in at cornerback. He has started only four games since then, which included last week, when he filled in for injured fellow senior Chris Davis. But White has made his biggest contribution as a Tiger on special teams, serving as the holder on field goals and extra points for the last three seasons.
And on the occasions Auburn gets creative and dials up a trick play on a two-point conversion, White dons his figurative cape and becomes “Batman,” the Tigers’ name for the formation.
“If we're going to run it we usually go after the first touchdown,” he said. “We just try to look for the edge in the defense, something we know that will get the crowd into the game.”
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The two times the Tigers have put out the “bat signal” this season, White has come through. The first was against Washington State in the season opener, as he kept the ball himself and ran it in to the end zone. Last Saturday’s successful two-pointer was even more impressive, as the former quarterback got to dust off his arm and connect with tight end Brandon Fulse to put the Tigers up 11-0 in the first quarter versus Mississippi State.
“The Batman” only appears when the coaching staff spots a weakness and immediately relays it in from the sideline.
“We see what the defense is doing,” White said. “If it's not numbered, then we're calling it.”
His superlative showing as the Tigers’ holder hasn’t translated to his primary position, however. Last week was the first time White’s name had been in the starting lineup since Auburn’s season opener last year against Clemson. The native of Tallahassee, Fla., admitted he’s disappointed he hadn’t developed into a more significant piece of Auburn’s defense in his previous three seasons on the Plains.
“I had to look at myself and see what I was doing wrong,” White said. “I just had to work on those things. All things happen for a reason.”
But with only nine games left to play in his career — not counting any possible postseason destination for the Tigers — White believes his understanding of how to play corner has never been better.
And he has cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith to thank for that newfound sense of enlightenment.
“Coach Melvin, I remember the first time talking to him, I asked him what he brought to the table,” White said. “He told me he brought physical and tackling. Those were the most things I needed to work on.”
Smith’s tutelage nearly paid off handsomely last Saturday. White stepped in front of a pass from Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott with just over five minutes remaining and plenty of room to run. It wasn’t to be, as the ball bounced off his hands. With no one in front of him, White was kicking himself, knowing he likely had a pick-six — and of greater import, would have been the game’s go-ahead score with the Tigers trailing 20-17.
It was an instance of glory deferred.
“I was kind of hesitant with it and I should have just played my keys so I could have taken that to the house,” he said. “They would have been talking about me for a few more days.”
Sooner or later, “Batman” will surface again. And, of course, every Caped Crusader needs a sidekick.
The aptly-named Robenson Therezie was mentioned as a candidate to portray his accomplice.
White liked the idea, but made one aspect of any potential partnership with Therezie perfectly clear.
“I'm the Batman,” White said. “He can be Robin.”