PART THREE OF A FOUR-PART SERIES
With the return of a few proven playmakers, the cornerback positions appeared solid coming into the spring. But the addition of junior college transfers Blair Irvin and Billy McClellan could make the group one of the biggest strengths at Kansas State. While Irvin arrives with a unique background, McClellan will be called upon to fill a unique duty. D. Scott Fritchen continues his look at spring newcomers and their potential impact heading into the fall.
Blair Irvin • CB • 5-11, 185 • Jr-TR
Coffeyville Community College
What his addition means: Well, it means the 23-year-old junior has a chance to show why Auburn and LSU recruited him out of high school. After four seasons in minor league baseball, Irvin opted to return to football and now arrives in a battle with leaders Joshua Moore and Ray Cheatham at a cornerback position that figures to be a strength of the team. Irvin showed good footwork, blazing speed (4.4), decent hands and the ability to beat blocks and close gaps along the edge in run support and make the open tackle in junior college. His maturity is a plus.
Who he could have an edge over entering fall workouts: Dustin Bell for one, as Bell, the No. 72-rated junior college prospect by Rivals.com arrives with his hefty credentials as a pick-off artist (eight INTS) in the fall. There's plenty of talent at CB with the return of Otis Johnson and Kendrick Matthews, so it remains to be seen how quickly Irvin grasps the playbook and moves up the depth chart.
What he did at Coffeyville CC: Irvin was the No. 50 junior college prospect by Rivals.com after totaling 24 tackles and one interception last season to earn second-team All-Jayhawk honors. Irvin also averaged 16.5 yards on 29 punt returns. Originally a 2002 signee at LSU out of Patterson (La.) High School, Irvin opted instead to play minor league baseball after the Tampa Bay Devils Rays took him in the 12th round. He played in 91 games for the Rookie Level Princeton Rays and posted a .229 batting average over four seasons. The all-state selection in football, baseball and track and field won the Class 3A state title in the long jump and was on the state runner-up 4x400 relay team.
Purple pipeline: Strong ties here. Irvin joins teammates SS Gary Chandler and WR Deon Murphy, who signed from Coffeyville CC a year ago. Since 1993, Coffeyville also produced OL Brien Henley and DB Gerald Neasman (1997), DB Derrick Yates (2000) and OL Ryan Lilja (2002) for K-State.
Irvin says: "I felt Kansas State was the best place for me and my family."
Prince says: "His story is unusual in that he has had a chance to play baseball at the professional level and he is a married young man and has a child. He is a 23-year-old junior, which is very much a positive. He is a veteran player who has been around. He is still learning the game of football and how to perfect his own craft but from a maturity standpoint has been terrific or that position already. He has very good movement skills. We anticipate him being in the mix to compete and make our corner position better."
Billy McClellan • CB • 5-9, 180, Jr-TR
Harbor Community College
What his addition means: Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar might have found his man to fill the shoes of the technique-sound and steady Byron Garvin. At 5-foot-9, McClellan is the same height as Garvin but at 180 pounds is eight pounds lighter than the former specialist at nickel back. McClellan has good instincts and can cover space in a hurry. He's a hard-hitter who could take care of things across the middle.
Who he could have an edge over entering fall workouts: Unknown. It appears Prince & Co. strategically searched for a specific type of player to plug-in the hole left by Garvin as the fifth defensive back - Prince said as much during a public post-signing day party.
What he did at Harbor (Calif.) CC: The three-star prospect by Rivals.com had 29 tackles, including three for a loss, to go along with three INTs and three PBUs last season. He had 45 tackles, 2 INTs and seven PBUs as a freshman. At North Torrance (Calif.) High School, McClellan was his team's leading wide receiver and competed in the 100-meter, long jump, triple jump and 4x100. He also attended the same high school as Chuck Norris.
Purple pipeline: Amazingly, K-State signed 55 players from 22 different California junior colleges since 1993. None came from Harbor CC - until now.
McClellan says: "The coaches showed great respect for me and my game. They want me to play corner and I'm ready to go out there and compete for a spot right away."
Prince says: "He's a very fast player and could be very good for us in the slot. We're hoping he can demonstrate that in the spring and that would answer some questions for us with the loss of Byron Garvin. Byron really did a good job playing in the slot for us when we had five defensive backs on the field."
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