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Film room: What Zamir White brings to table

Diving into the Raiders’ new running back

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama
Zamir White
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders caught many by surprise during the NFL Draft when they traded up four spots and selected Georgia running back, Zamir White.

While yes, it was a fourth-round pick, White was the Raiders’ second pick of the draft, and the team was presumptively set at the position with Josh Jacobs as the starter, Kenyan Drake holding down the second spot and Brandon Bolden signing in free agency. Not to mention Ameer Abdullah also moving to Las Vegas this offseason as well.

Nonetheless, White will put on the Silver and Black in September and give Josh McDaniels another offensive weapon to play with.

So, what exactly will McDaniels have at his disposal with the former Bulldog?

Rushing Stats

White had a pretty steady carrier down in Athens. After a torn ACL forced him to redshirt year one, he mixed into the rotation with D’Andre Swift and tallied 78 carries for 408 yards — 5.2 yards per rush — and three touchdowns. As the lead back but still splitting carries, he racked up 144 carries, 779 yards — 5.4 yards per rush — and 11 touchdowns in 2020, and 161, 859 and 11 more scores in 2021.

That makes for a total of 383 rushes for 2,046 yards — 5.3 per clip — and 25 touchdowns in college with impressive consistency, falling between 5.2 to 5.4 yards per attempt every season.

But on what type of runs or how was White able to put up these types of numbers?

Of his 78 carries as a redshirt freshman, 16 came on gap runs (25th-most out of 27 qualifying SEC running backs) and 62 were on zone runs (21st-most out of 23) for a ratio of about 3.9 zone plays to one gap play. That ratio started to shift in year two when he had 44 gap carries to 96 zone carries — about 2.2 zone to gap — and those figures ranked tied for eighth and seventh, respectively. However, the tide completely changed during his junior year, where he had the fifth-most gap runs out of the 31 qualifiers in the conference (82) and the 14th-most zone runs (77).

In other words, he’s pretty well-versed in the two primary rushing schemes.

White also proved to be more of a chain mover than an explosive runner in college. In 2019, he registered 21 first downs on the ground (ranked 23rd in the SEC) to just three breakaway runs or rushes of 15 yards or more (tied for last) and a breakaway percentage of 16.9 percent (last), per Pro Football Focus. Fast-forwarding to this past season, he moved the chains 49 times (tied for seventh) to just eight breakaways (tied for 15th) at a rate of 25 percent (22nd).

Now, the Georgia product did have 50 firsts (tied for fifth) with nine runs of 15 yards or more (tied for ninth) and a 34.9 breakaway percentage (seventh) as a sophomore, but that year appears to be more of an outlier.

Another big aspect of White’s game is his ability to force missed tackles and create yards after contact (YAC).

He managed 3.59 YAC in year one, the 12th-highest rate among SEC rushers, and had forced 19 missed tackles which ranked only 20th, but he was only one of two backs inside the Top 20 who had fewer than 80 carries. The following season, he dipped to 2.87 YAC (13th-best) but managed to have the eighth-most missed tackles forced (MTF) at 27. His YAC went back up to 3.6 in year three as a junior, which ranked 11th, and he managed a career-best 37 MTF that was tied for eighth.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama
Zamir White
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Receiving Stats

I won’t spend too much time on this section since catching the ball wasn’t a big part of White’s game in college. He had just 16 catches on 21 targets for 129 yards and zero touchdowns in his career and never had more than 10 targets in an entire season, which prevented him from qualifying for rankings within any receiving metrics.

The former Bulldog also registered an average depth of target of -0.3 yards, which likely means he was primarily getting targeted on screens and swing passes out of the backfield. In other words, he didn’t have much of a route tree.

However, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick did have an impressive 12.1 yards after the catch per reception in 2021, and that would have been the second-highest average among SEC running backs, had he been able to maintain that pace throughout a bigger sample size.

Pass Blocking Stats

Pass protection was another area where Vegas’ new back didn’t see a whole lot of action.

In fact, he was only asked to pass block four times as a freshman and 22 times as a junior, both of which weren’t enough to qualify for any rankings those years. However, he allowed four pressures — one sack, one QB hit and two hurries — this past year, and that would have tied for the 10th-most despite pass blocking nine times fewer than the player in the Top 10 who had the fewest snaps in pass protection.

White did have a big enough sample size to qualify for rankings as a junior, though that’s where the trend above started. He surrendered four pressures — zero sacks, one QB hit and three hurries — for a 92.9 PFF efficiency rating and 40.1 grade in pass protection. That was tied for the third-most pressures, the fourth-lowest efficiency rating and the fifth-lowest grade among SEC running backs. It’s also important to note that he had the fourth-fewest pass-blocking snaps of the 17 backs who qualified.

Film Clips

Now that we’ve gathered all of the numbers, let’s add some context by turning to the film and actually seeing what White can do.

In our first clip, we’ll get a sense of White’s ability to run through contact.

Georgia runs mid-zone to the weak side and Clemson has a line game going on where the strong-side defensive tackle slants (No. 11) and the weakside-side defensive tackle (No. 33) loops. White sees No. 33 attack the center and knows he can take his eyes to the Will linebacker (No. 42) since the stunt will put the defensive line out of position.

From there, the back reads the right guard’s block on No. 42 flowing to the outside and knows he needs to start getting north and south or cut it back in the other direction. The back opts to work down the field and does a good job of lowering his shoulders and keeping his feet moving through contact to run through a few arm tackles. That also helps him fall forward and add about four yards after he was first touched.

My one critique would be I’d like to see White be able to cut the run back at about the 33-yard-line because if he can clear No. 47 with a jump cut, there’s a whole lot of real estate for a long run. However, I will say he lacks some agility to cover a lot of ground laterally with a jump cut, so I do like that he knows how he’s built and gets what he can. Hopefully, he can add the cutback to his game down the line to turn plays like this from an A to an A+.

White had his highest yards per carry on runs to the left end or outside the left tight end (7.5) than in any other direction/gap last season and this clip is a great example of why.

The Bulldogs called an outside zone run and the defense does a decent job of filling their gaps on the first level of the play side, so it’s up to the ball carrier to make something happen for the offense. White does an excellent job of pressing the line, meaning he waits until the last second to bounce it to the outside. That gets the defense to come downhill and get caught too far inside.

Watch the strong safety (No. 36 with the long hair) work up to the line of scrimmage and then get caught in the trash when White bounces it. That’s a textbook example of how to set up a defense on an outside zone run.

From there, White shows a nice burst to make one tackler miss and turn this into about a 20-yard gain.

This next clip is White’s best run yet.

Again, Georgia calls a zone run but this time the center gets tripped up and loses control of his block, so there’s going to be a linebacker right in White’s face almost as soon as he touches the ball. He recognizes this and immediately changes his aiming point to the other side of the center and sidesteps the linebacker to break through the line of scrimmage.

Then, the runner has to take on another backer and lowers his shoulder to break another tackle. Now that he’s successfully evaded two defenders, here comes the cornerback and somehow White generates enough momentum to run the corner over tack on another five yards.

A lot of plays that running backs make are a result of their offensive line, but not this one, this was all White.

Here is an example of White’s vision and some of that 4.4 speed he showed off at the NFL Combine.

Pre-snap, Kentucky is over-playing the strong-side with five defenders in the box on the offense’s right to just three on the left, so the second-level cutback back should be there on this G/H counter run, “G/H” meaning the backside guard and tight end are the pullers.

The running back takes his counter step to freeze the backside defenders and reads the Mike (No. 5). Once he sees No. 5 flow to the outside and the Will (No. 14) not scrape over the top to replace the Mike, White knows the cutback is there, especially with the Wildcats over-playing the frontside pre-snap.

From there, the play side tight end (No. 86) gets a hat on the safety and it’s off to the races and no defender even comes close to touching the White. The defensive line slanting and the Will (No. 32) blitzing also helps open this play up, but a great read by the fourth-round pick nonetheless.

This next clip isn’t as fancy as the other ones, but it is another example of the Georgia product’s contact balance and ability to run through arm tackles.

The Bulldogs call an inside zone run, the center and backside guard scoop the nose tackle (No. 21), and the play-side guard and tackle do a good job of kicking out the defensive end (No. 48) and working up to get a hat on the Will (No. 33). So, White stays patient and hits it in the B-gap.

From there, he does a good job of getting his pads down, covering up the ball and keeping his feet moving through contact to run through another arm tackle.

Our last play also doesn’t need much explanation. It’s a simple zone run that White stems to the outside for a couple of steps to keep the Sam linebacker (No. 33) honest and force him to stay in the C-gap, and then White transitions downhill and hits it in the B-gap where the play is designed.

That’s when things start to get interesting as he gets that forward lean we keep seeing, and watch his legs as the defensive lineman makes contact with him. The back’s legs never stop pumping and go pretty much the same speed before and after contact, which, combined with the offensive lineman staying engaged, allows White to pick up about six yards after contact. It took about three defenders to bring him down here, that’s pretty damn impressive.