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A special teams standout earlier in his career, Whitner took over full-time strong safety duties as a junior after sharing those chores the previous season. He is another in a long line of standout defensive backs to perform for the Buckeyes in recent years. He has not only proven to be a hard hitter in run support, but also displays the quickness to handle the speedy receivers in man coverage.
Whitner was considered one of the top defensive backs in the country while competing at Glenville High School, where he was teammates with present Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. He was rated the best overall prospect in the Midwest and the seventh-best in the nation by Prep Star and played in the U.S. Army Bowl over Christmas break of his senior campaign.
Whitner was credited with 87 tackles and three interceptions as a junior. He posted 60 tackles, including ten stops for losses, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. On offense, he scored fourteen touchdowns as a junior and had nine scoring receptions as a senior. He finished his career with thirteen interceptions. Recruited by all the national powerhouses, he also excelled in the classroom.
Whitner saw action in every game as a true freshman at Ohio State in 2003. He played mostly on special teams, leading the coverage unit with 22 tackles (15 solos) while also causing a fumble and recovering a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. He also provided big plays on defense, intercepting two passes and deflecting two others.
Whitner began the 2004 campaign sharing strong safety duties with Tyler Everett. He started six of ten games, sitting out the Penn State and Purdue contests after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. He finished his sophomore campaign ranked fourth on the team with 69 tackles (47 solos), including one sack and four stops for losses. He also had an interception and a pass breakup.
Fully recovered from the knee surgery, Whitner earned 2005 All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors. He finished third on the Buckeyes with 73 tackles (55 solos) and registered four sacks with nine stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also caused a fumble, batted away six passes and intercepted two others, returning one for a score.
In 35 games for the Buckeyes, Whitner started 18 times. He registered 164 tackles (117 solos) with five sacks for minus-41 yards and thirteen stops for losses of 76 yards. He caused two fumbles and recovered a blocked punt for a score. He deflected nine passes and had five interceptions for 62 yards in returns and a touchdown.
Positives: Has good upper body muscle tone, lean waist, low body fat, good bubble and room on his frame to add more bulk...Strong runner with very good quickness, balance and acceleration...Has the burst to close and the foot speed to stay with receivers on long routes in man coverage...Has adequate strength and easily learns and retains plays... Does a good job of reading the flow of the play and has a good understanding of blocking schemes...Has the speed to play loose on the tight end, showing smooth backpedal action with fluid hip turn and flexibility...Explodes out of his breaks and has a good feel working in the zone, quickly making the switch-off due to fine anticipation skills...Gets a quick break on the ball and shows the body adjustments to redirect...His ball skills are evident by his ability to jump the receiver...Has the quickness to pursue and catch up with or without taking angles...Has soft, yet small hands, but compensates with good timing going up to compete for the ball at its high point...Explosive tackler who is effective in run force playing along the perimeter...Jolt-and-stun type of hitter who shows consistency making one-on-one tackles in the open field...Has a knack for shooting the gaps to disrupt action in the backfield.
Negatives: Has good upper body strength, but lacks bulk and the size needed to face up to blockers at the point of attack...Attacks the gaps with force, but can get washed out vs. double teams or ping-ponged by offensive guards and centers when they get their hands on him in tight quarters...Loses sight of the ball at times when working through trash and needs to use his hands better to push off blocks, turn and run...Has shorter than ideal arms, along with just adequate height, causing some problems competing for the jump ball vs. taller receivers...Has soft, yet very small hands trying to make the interception.
Whitner is a smart, aggressive tackler who has the field awareness to make the quick switch-off working in the zone. While he has the speed to mirror receivers in man coverage, he is best suited to play the open field, where his speed and ability to take angles helps him shut down the outside rushing lane. He shows precision planting and driving out of his breaks and the lateral range to make plays in pursuit.
Whitner has the speed to roam the field, but needs to show more explosiveness to close. He can compensate with his recovery speed going long distances, however. He can turn and trail the receiver well and has the hand usage to reroute tight ends and backs working in the short area. The thing you see on film is his ability to cover in the flat and recover quickly enough to flash inside.
Whitner gets a good jump on the receiver to make the play. He is a very good leaper, but is sometimes stymied there because of his short arms. He is physical taking on the fullback to clog the rush lanes and is a solid enough wrap tackler to get even the big fullbacks down.
Whitner will bring immediate value on the special teams coverage units. He has a good understanding of blocking schemes and shows good urgency in attempts to finish the play. He shows good patience on the field and is not the type who will get out of control, but when he does, he has the loose hips, flexibility and acceleration to recover.
Some teams might look at his lack of size and bulk, along with his exceptional quickness and think about converting him to cornerback. However, his range would be wasted there, as he is best when allowed to cover the field. He has a little bit of Mike Doss (Colts) in him with his ability to squeeze through tight quarters to generate pocket pressure. With increased lower body strength he will not get bounced around by offensive linemen so much working near the line. Simply put, he is a solid playmaker with the range and speed that is ideal to attack on the blitz or handle the switch-off in the deep zone.
Since becoming a starter, Whitner produced all five of his career sacks and all thirteen of his stops behind the line of scrimmage, delivering 125 of his 164 tackles since taking over the strong safety position.
All-American third-team choice by The NFL Draft Report...All-Big Ten Conference first-team pick...Started every game at strong safety...Finished third on the team with 73 tackles (55 solos)...Had four sacks for minus 30 yards and ranked fourth on the team with nine stops for losses of 51 yards...Caused a fumble, deflected six passes and intercepted two others for 26 yards in returns with a touchdown...Helped the team rank fifth in the nation in total defense (281.33 ypg) and scoring defense (15.25 ppg).
Played in ten games, starting vs. North Carolina State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Oklahoma State (Alamo Bowl) at strong safety...Shared those duties with Troy Everett...Suffered a knee injury vs. Indiana that required arthroscopic surgery, forcing him to sit out the following week vs. Penn State...Returned vs. Michigan State, but was again sidelined vs. Purdue to let him recover further from surgery...Still managed to rank fourth on the team with 69 tackles (47 solos)...Added an 11-yard sack and four stops for losses of 25 yards...Deflected a pass and intercepted another for a 24-yard return.
Played in every game, seeing action mostly on special teams as a true freshman...Came up with 22 tackles (15 solos) and a forced fumble...Deflected two passes and intercepted two others for 12 yards in returns.
2004: Suffered a knee sprain vs. Indiana (10/23), undergoing arthroscopic surgery. Sat out the following game vs. Penn State, saw brief action vs. Michigan State and was again sidelined for the Purdue contest.
2006: Could not complete agility tests at the Combines due to a left hamstring strain.
Combine: 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash...2.61 20-yard dash...1.56 10-yard dash...Bench presses 225 pounds 18 times...40-inch vertical jump...11'0" broad jump...30 5/8-inch arm length...7 7/8-inch hands. ...Did not participate in the shuttle run (hamstring strain)
Attended Glenville (Cleveland, Oh.) High School, where he was a teammate of fellow Ohio State players quarterback Troy Smith and receiver Ted Ginn, Jr...Considered one of the top defensive backs in the country...Rated the best overall prospect in the Midwest and the seventh-best in the nation by Prep Star and played in the U.S. Army Bowl over Christmas break of his senior campaign...Made 87 tackles and three interceptions as a junior...Posted 60 tackles, including ten stops for losses, three interceptions and four forced fumbles...On offense, he scored fourteen touchdowns as a junior and had nine scoring receptions as a senior...Finished his career with thirteen interceptions...Also excelled in the classroom, earning Honor Roll recognition.
Consumer Affairs major...Son of Lindsey Robinson and Deborah Whitner Robinson... Born 7/24/85...Resides in Cleveland, Ohio.
Draft Scout Player News
12/11/14 - S Donte Whitner returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness.
12/10/14 - S Donte Whitner missed practice because of illness.
12/04/14 - SS Donte Whitner was rested Thursday.
11/02/14 - S Donte Whitner intercepted a pass deflected by cornerback Joe Haden and returned it 54 yards in the first half to set up a field goal. For Haden, it was a case of returning the favor. Last week Whitner forced a fumble that popped right into Haden's hands. Haden returned the ball 34 yards to set up a touchdown.
04/01/14 - S Donte Whitner was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Browns from the 49ers March 13.