Freshman running back JuTahn McClain "is not afraid of anything"
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Freshman running back JuTahn McClain "is not afraid of anything"

Nick Roushalmost 2 years

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Article written by:Nick RoushNick Roush

@RoushKSR

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<small> jutahn | IG</small>
[caption id="attachment_289379" align="alignnone" width="750"] jutahn | IG[/caption] In Kentucky's crowded running back room, one newcomer has already made an outstanding first impression. Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Eddie Gran is always quick to pump the brakes on lofty expectations. He has made an exception for JuTahn McClain. "Whoa, I'm gonna tell you something: I'm impressed with that young man," Gran said following Kentucky's fourth practice of the 2020 spring season. "He is tough. He will stick his face in there and he does a great job in blitz protection. He is not afraid of anything. A little bit like Travis Tisdale, he's got that burst. He's very smooth, can catch the ball, so I think we got a really good one there. I'm excited about where he's at right now already. You coach him one time and he gets it fixed." Typically, pass protection is the most difficult early hurdle for young running backs to overcome in college. It's nothing new for JuTahn (pronounced juh-TAWN). "Obviously, I wanted to go to a team that runs the ball. I like to get the ball but anything that's for the team, I'm for. They want me to go in there and stick my nose in there for pass pro, that's what I'm gonna do," McClain said. "I have no problem going up against guys twice my size. I've been doing that my whole life, 5-10, 186 (pounds). It's normal to me. You can't go out there scared. You gotta play with confidence." Toughness is engrained into the DNA of the Cincinnati native. In three years at Fairfield High School he accounted for 60 total touchdowns and more than 4,400 yards, culminating with 1,947 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in his final season. On the verge of breaking the 2,000-yard mark and taking away a conference title from rival Colerain, he suffered a sprained foot. Even though he could not run, he told coaches to use him as a decoy. "I did not want to go out. Go hard or go home, so I had to stay in. I couldn't go out like that." Unfortunately, McClain's efforts could not carry Fairfield to a victory in the regular season finale, falling 16-10. Two weeks later he re-injured his foot against Colerain, ending the Indians' season. McClain quickly transitioned from high school star to incoming SEC freshman. Even though Gran has been encouraged by the newcomer's work ethic and early performance in spring practice, McClain's eyes have been opened. "It's a real big adjustment. Everybody's flying around. You don't really see slow guys anymore so you gotta pick up the pace," he said. The adjustments have not been so difficult thanks to his teammates, notably Travis Tisdale. A redshirt freshman, the running back from Georgia has been quick to share lessons he learned from his experience last fall. "It's a big transition from high school. You've gotta stay in the books. You gotta stay in your playbook. Most of all, you gotta learn things early and apply it to practice. It's a big step. I'm doing a good job adjusting. My teammates are helping me out and it's been a good transition," said McClain. The advice from the upperclassmen is simple. "Just play with confidence and if you make a mistake, do it at 110%. Go all out." If McClain continues to go all out, we'll continue to hear praise from Gran who plans on working McClain and Tisdale in with the ones and twos to see how they handle the closest thing to a game-like situation. "I know what the ones can do," he said. "When the bullets are flying, what are they about?" If the first four practices are any indication, McClain will not shy away from the bullets flying around the UK practice field this spring. https://youtu.be/lcInHI7QwJs  

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2022-01-17