Blake McClain, CB
FR 5’11, 190
Winter Park, FL
There was never any doubt that the Kentucky coaching staff would have to address the cornerback position in the 2013 class. Joker and his staff were forced to use three true freshmen last season and the departures of Marcus Caffey and Shawn Blaylock have only amplified the need there. Heading into the season, Kentucky returns only three scholarship cornerbacks and a solid walk-on and the four of them have combined for just six career starts. To address this, Kentucky signed McClain and fellow freshman Jaleel Hytchye along with junior college transfer Nate Willis. While Willis is expected to compete for playing time right away, as of today, he is still not on campus yet while finishing up some coursework.
With so much uncertainty at the position, the opportunity has never been better for a player like McClain. He has ideal size for a corner and ample athleticism, he really just lacks experience. At a hair under 6’0 and already weighing close to 200 pounds, McClain has the size to man up the bigger SEC receivers and play bump-and-run coverages when called upon to do so. Maybe more importantly, McClain is more than able to come up and stuff the run from the outside, a trait that’s increasingly rare in young corners. The opportunity for early playing time is staring McClain right in the face at Kentucky and there should be almost no chance that he redshirts unless he is somehow injured. With the current roster, it is entirely possible that McClain will be listed in the top 3-5 corners and should see extensive time on special teams and in pass protecting defenses. With exactly zero proven cornerbacks on campus, its really not even out of the realm of possibilities that McClain could win a starting job as a freshman.
Don’t let McClain’s ratings fool you either. He was listed as a consensus three-star player by all four of the major recruiting databases, but his offer list isn’t one that you’d normally associate with a run of the mill cornerback. He sported 15+ scholarship offers from BCS schools and actually received an offer from at least one school in every single BCS conference. His prototypical size and athleticism made him an obvious target for team’s needing help in the defensive backfield, but his ball skills are really what made McClain so valuable to teams and what could set him apart at Kentucky. McClain’s ability to adjust his body and his excellent leaping ability are two extremely valuable assets in a defensive back.
Here is a bit of what ESPN has to say about McClain:
McClain demonstrates good range as a deep defender along with aggressive run support capabilities. Has the size and athleticism for the defensive safety position at the major level of competition. His frame may be able to support added bulk over time, provided athleticism and playing speed are not compromised. This guy is a tough customer showing the ability to deliver big hits on receivers in space; is a punishing open field tackler who doesn’t allow leaky yardage. We see potential as a special teams coverage defender; displays good return ability after interceptions which may indicate potential as a punt/kickoff return specialist; shows natural hands as a receiver which carries over to his positive ball skills on defense. His present defensive scheme allows him to play deep zone coverage where he demonstrates the ability to come up on underneath throws and make the secure open field; will need to tighten up his underneath cushion however his discipline and range provide excellent overlap against the deep outside ball; does a good job playing the deep throw at the high point. Although we don’t see man coverage schemes his foot quickness and lateral agility suggest potential. Is active playing the outside run; flashes the playing strength needed to take on and defeating blockers off the edge; moves through traffic well demonstrating a willingness to mix it up at the line of scrimmage. McClain does not appear to be an immediate starter at the BCS level of play. Some time and perhaps a red shirt year may be necessary to develop his skills.