After losing Michael Jackson Sr. to graduation (and the NFL), head coach Manny Diaz and defensive coordinator Blake Baker is tasked to find a cornerback to start alongside Trajan Bandy from a group of inexperienced cornerbacks.
With such a concern, the Hurricanes may have sophomore cornerback Al Blades Jr. enter the fold as a starting cornerback.
Measuring at 6’1”, Blades Jr. enters inexperienced but with a loads of potential. In 13 games as a true freshman, Blades Jr. earned primarily special teams rep with sparing defensive snaps. In those defensive snaps, the Canes legacy had just 13 tackles.
The Scouting Report:
Despite the small amount of college experience, Blades Jr. has a lot of good traits that can translate as a boundary cornerback.
At 6’1”, Blades has the height to play outside and has shown the ability to press effectively, making life difficult for receivers at the line. While he played a little too aggressive at the high school level, his man coverage talents and high motor makes him a talented player.
When asked to play zone coverage, Blades struggled with lapses in coverage at St. Thomas Aquinas. Whether Diaz and Baker trusts Blades Jr. as a zone corner will be important when it comes to his 2019 play.
Though Blades may never be a player the Hurricanes can build around at cornerback, his development as a leader makes him a possible consistent starter and possible captain. Despite being a freshman, Blades Jr. was named a special teams captain twice.
Outside of Bandy, who is a guaranteed starter on the boundary, the options for Baker and Diaz leaves some to be desired.
The Hurricanes attempted to solve this problem through the transfer portal but struck out on their options, leaving Blades Jr. to battle with fellow sophomore DJ Ivey and redshirt freshman Nigel Bethel.
When fall camp started, Blades Jr. started with the first-team offense, though it seems that the placements were more based on work during the summer.
Regardless, a strong fall camp can put Blades Jr. as a starting cornerback and big-time contributor.