Analysis: Vols Land Exceptional Cover Corner

Brandon Martin

The cornerback position is perhaps one of the highest need positions for Tennessee in the 2021 recruiting class. The Vols have three seniors that will graduate at the end of the 2020 season, and they could also potentially lose both starting corners if Juniors Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson were to elect to declare early for the NFL Draft. This means the Vols need to bring in not only bodies for the corner position, they need to bring in several players that are primed to make an immediate impact. Making an impact early for Jeremy Pruitt and Derrick Ansley as a corner is not an easy thing to do, because the Vols run so much man coverage, and this is asking a lot for any corner, especially a true freshman. The Vols have been looking for impact corners, and for two defensive minds that made their name with success in the defensive backfield, Pruitt and Ansley know what those types of guys look like. The Vols look to have reeled in one of those major, impact corners today with the commitment of four-star Pensacola Catholic (Pensacola, FL) product, DaMarius McGhee.

As is often the case with prospects from the state of Florida, the name of the game with the six-foot one inch, one hundred seventy-pound corner is speed. McGhee has blistering speed that allows him to matchup in man coverage with any receiver. Playing against good competition in Florida, McGhee is playing against some of the fastest athletes in the country. This means that he not only has the speed to matchup against any receiver on his own in man coverage, he can come up and press. McGhee also has good height for a corner, with long arms, that can make him even more difficult for receivers to deal with. The combination of height, length, and speed means that McGhee can fit exactly into playing press on an island, just like Pruitt and Ansley want their corners to do. He has the speed to run with anyone, the length to knock receivers off their routes with his hand technique, and the size to match up with y’all receivers downfield for jump balls. 

There is more to McGhee's game than speed, but it is what allows him to be an elite defender. Around his speed and height, he also possesses good ball skills and hand technique. In fact, McGhee has good coverage technique all the way around. He gets his hands inside receivers, throws off timing, turns and runs, gets in phase with receivers going down the field, and the adjusts well to knock down passes to end plays. McGhee does an excellent job of getting to passes and getting hands on them. He is physical and plays tight without committing penalties, playing around receivers to get to the ball, rather than going through them to draw a flag. McGhee gets is able to run with any receiver, and does a nice job working them away from the ball, using his body to shield them from it and using the sideline to his advantage. McGhee also has the hands to go intercept a ball, rather than just knock it down. When he does get his hands on a pass, that speed means that McGhee is a threat to take any turnovers he sees to the house. Athletically, physically, and technically, McGhee checks every box required of an impact, man-coverage corner.

McGhee is a bit slight, but he is a solid tackler for his size. His form is good, but he could struggle supporting the run at the next level, particularly against bigger backs. McGhee will have to focus on being a fundamentally sound tackler each time he needs to bring a ball carrier down in order to deal with large receivers and power running backs, but the foundation to do so is there. For all the talk about man coverage, McGhee is also a good zone corner as well. McGhee displays a high football IQ, understanding where he fits in to the greater scheme of the defense while baiting quarterbacks into throws. A defender with the speed and ball skills of McGhee being able to sit in zone coverage and read the quarterback is perilous for a passer, because a misread or any error in throwing mechanics is likely to end up in a turnover. Dropping into coverage if any kind, there are very few holes in McGhee's game.

Tennessee has been looking for an elite corner prospect, and McGhee fits that bill. He is a complete cover corner with all the tools and skills to be elite. The Vols would like to let him develop and grow into an impact role, but if he is forced to play early, he certainly has the tools and attitude to step into that extremely challenging role in the Tennessee defense and thrive. McGhee has the tools to be a complete corner, and an outstanding cover corner, especially with the opportunity to learn from Pruitt and Ansley. This is one of Tennessee’s most important commitments in this recruiting class, and McGhee has one of the highest ceilings in the class. The Vols have landed an elite corner prospect, and they would now like to pair a second one with him. 

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