Kiffin Sees Bears With A 'Steal' In Whyte

The Bears drafted running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. in the seventh round.

Chris Emma
May 15, 2019 - 5:05 pm
Categories: 

(670 The Score) Lane Kiffin knew well that running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. would've benefited from another year spent at Florida Atlantic.

Had Whyte stayed for the 2019 season, he would've been a fifth-year senior set to finally showcase his full explosiveness in a starting role for the first time in college after often playing behind Devin Singletary, a third-round pick of the Bills in April.

But Kiffin also realized that any team willing to look past Whyte's limited workload at Florida Atlantic and appreciate the impressive skill set he owns would be getting a great addition. That's what the Bears saw, as they selected Whyte in the seventh round with his potential in mind.

"I do think it's a steal," Kiffin said of the Bears picking Whyte where they did.

Kiffin was surprised Whyte bypassed his senior season at Florida Atlantic, but he understood why after they discussed the decision. Whyte was focused on that route even before the 2018 season, completely comfortable with simply getting a chance in the NFL instead of worrying about draft stock.

A redshirt freshman in 2015 and reserve player in the two seasons to follow, Whyte had his greatest production in 2018, rushing 134 times for 866 yards and eight touchdowns. He then dazzled at Florida Atlantic's pro day with a 40-yard dash time clocked in the 4.3 range and a 42-inch vertical jump.

The Bears had Whyte logged at a 4.38 40 time, general manager Ryan Pace said. 

"Opportunities, they present themselves," Whyte said after being drafted. "I'm thankful to say I took advantage of a lot of them."

An offensive-oriented coach, Kiffin would've been preparing Whyte for the same featured role that made Singletary one of the top running backs in the draft. Instead, he's eager to watch how Whyte fits with coach Matt Nagy's plans in Chicago.

The Bears made Whyte their second running back selection of this draft, along with third-round pick David Montgomery, who went one slot ahead of Singletary. In Whyte, they're adding a player who could be the latest gadget to Nagy's playbook -- and with upside to become even more.

"Very explosive player," Kiffin said. "I think he can help in a number of areas outside of just playing running back. He can help on every down. There's some good stuff he does in the passing game.

"He's a lot more valuable than old school and sitting back there in the running back position all the time. I think they'll really like what he can do in the passing game, jet sweeps, motion, different stuff like that."

Whyte is also a polished special teams player who could immediately fit with the Bears' units -- and perhaps as a returner. too At Florida Atlantic, Whyte averaged 26.1 yards on 81 kickoff returns and took it to the house twice.

Versatility is only part of what Kiffin will miss from Whyte at Florida Atlantic. He came to appreciate a kid who was both a dynamic player and high-character person.

"He's very mature," Kiffin said. "Very strong Christian, soft-spoken kid. When you talk to him, you would think he's in his 30s or something because he's so mature. Already graduated and set himself for life after football.

"He's a kid you want your daughter to date."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.