by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Name: Marcus McShepard
School: Cleveland Heights High School (Ohio)
Star rating: 3-star
Other offers: Penn State, Air Force, Akron, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, others
The Scouting Report
From ESPN Recruiting Nation:
“McShepard is a cornerback primarily with some offensive reps and nice production as a return man. He has more than adequate size for the position. More effective as a zone defender and very active around the football. Has a knack for making the big play in deep coverage. Adjusts his body well to the down field throw and has good ball skills.”
What he’s saying
On Signing Day, sitting before family, friends, and teammates, Marcus McShepard will offer gratitude to those who shaped him into a Northwestern Wildcat.
“I’ve been thinking about it since the day I committed,” McShepard said. “It’s one of the biggest days of my life. It’s the rest of my future.”
What’s the hype?
By the time McShepard made it official, the Wildcats were putting the finishing touches on their 2013 class and the race for his services was just starting to heat up. Despite a late push from Penn State, McShepard’s personal connection to the Wildcats – he’s a friend of defensive backs coach Jerry Brown’s niece and had been in contact with Brown himself for the better part of a year – made the Wildcats an obvious fit.
Along with earning honorable mention All-state honors at defensive back for Cleveland Heights (Ohio), McShepard was an explosive return man, lead the Tigers to a playoff appearance for the first time in program history and set a school record in the 60 meter dash. His size (5’11, 180-pounds) is perfectly suited for the cornerback position, and his pass coverage instincts and ability to make tackles in the open field are plainly visible on tape. Simply put, Northwestern is getting an athletic, skilled and versatile defensive back prospect who should take little time adjusting to the college game.
What about next year?
What we are seeing in the secondary, a process that began last season after the departures of Brian Peters and Jordan Mabin, is a full-fledged youth movement – from Nick VanHoose to Daniel Jones to Traveon Henry to Dwight White and on down the line. This year’s group is well stocked with young and talented DBs, but if extenuating circumstances arise, injuries happen and the Wildcats do find themselves in need of an extra man in the defensive backfield, sure – McShepard could make it with the first team.
Based on what I’ve read/heard/seen, the best defensive back prospects in this class are Keith Watkins and Godwin Igwebuike (unless he chooses to play running back), which means – unless McShepard outworks them in preseason camp – those two guys are more likely to get the call if freshmen assistance is in order. When you look at the talent already on board, and consider the overall youthful flavor of the secondary, the best option for McShepard, it would seem, is to save his eligibility for a four year-stretch that maximizes his time spent on the field and minimizes his time spent off it.
What about the future?
The collective growth of the secondary will coincide with McShepard’s personal growth at cornerback, and his close ties with secondary coach Brown should only aid his maturation process. Trying to decipher how a true freshman will take to a completely new environment, both scholastic and athletic, is always a thorny proposition, because even if some guys (Dan Vitale, Traveon Henry and Dean Lowry, for example) can slide in without breaking stride and make significant impacts upon arrival, most need a year or two to find their bearings. McShepard should/will redshirt next season, so it’s unlikely he will be able to directly affect what the Wildcats do on the field, but it’s the work he puts in during this crucial developmental year – in the weight room, film study, bonding with teammates – that will lay the foundation for a successful future.
It won’t be long before McShepard is manning up Big Ten receivers, using his natural athleticism to break up passes and bolster run support at the line of scrimmage, finding his niche in a young secondary and growing into a key element of Northwestern’s cornerback rotation. Good things lie ahead for McShepard, and for the secondary more broadly. His addition gives the oft-ridiculed pass defense another promising prospect to bank on for a tantalizing future.