Who Else Was Interested
Blades’ stock exploded last summer, as the California prospect went from an unknown to holding offers from Florida, USC and several other top schools. Nebraska made a push for Blades last spring, offering him on May 19. The Huskers lost the initial battle as Blades committed to Florida on June 22. Despite committing to the Gators, Blades maintained that he was definitely going to visit Nebraska at some point in his recruitment. Blades initially planned to visit for the Maryland game, but postponed due to his father being unable to come with. Blades finally took his visit on Jan. 20 and that visit combined with Donte Williams efforts resulted in the talented prospect flipping to the Huskers.
Blades measures in at 6-3 and 175 pounds. He is the type of cornerback that the NFL is now looking for since the Legion of Boom arrived in Seattle and Blades brings fantastic length and athleticism to the position. Blades is still very skinny at this point, as he has ample room to fill out both his up per and lower body in college. It may take a year or two in the weight room, but I expect Blades to measure in at 6-3 and around 205 pounds when he is finished maturing.
His straight-line speed: Blades has fantastic speed for the cornerback position, as he clocked a 4.44 40 time over the summer. Blades has an effortless running style, as he uses his long strides to cover a ton of ground in very little time. This allows Blades to be extremely aggressive at the line of scrimmage, as he has the makeup speed to close the distance on receivers even if he is beaten at the line of scrimmage. Blades speed also serves him well as a blitzer, as he was extremely effective coming off the edge as a high schooler.
His fundamentals as a pass defender: Blades has tremendous eyes for a young cornerback, as he does a great job of keeping his eyes where they are supposed to be during a play and not getting his eyes caught in the backfield. Blades also does a great job of getting into the hip of opposing receivers and matching their speed, allowing him to stay in position to make a play on the football. He is a very fundamentally sound cornerback that has a very good idea of hos to use his athletic gifts to help the team, something that will help him see the field early in Lincoln.
His on-field mentality: Blades plays angry on the football field and he plays with a noticeable chip on his shoulder. He also takes every play as an opportunity to physically dominate his opponent and prove that he is the best player on the field, and by the end of the game he has usually proven that. Swagger and intensity are two traits that every good cornerback needs, and Blades has both of those in spades.
His potential: Blades is already a highly touted 4-star prospect, which makes it somewhat terrifying to think that he is only scratching the surface of his ability. Blades has all of the physical traits that you look for in a 1st round pick, he just needs to grow into his body in order to make that happen. Blades may make some mistakes as a freshman and sophomore, but he has the potential to become a lockdown cornerback by his junior season.
Adding weight to his frame: Blades is too skinny to be consistently effective at cornerback right now, as bigger wide receivers will be able to bully him out of position for 50/50 balls. I believe that Blades can add 20 pounds to his frame while keeping his frame, something he needs to do in order to reach his full potential. Blades should add weight quickly if he commits himself to the weight room and the training table in Lincoln.
His hands: Blades dropped some catchable passes on film, missing a chance to make an impact play for his defense. The saying has always been that good cornerbacks break up passes, but great cornerbacks get interceptions. Blades has all of the traits to be a great cornerback, but he needs to spend some time with the JUGS machine and improve his hands in order to get there.
Huge recruiting victory for the Huskers, as they finally landed a longtime target for their secondary. Blades brings NFL-caliber size and speed to Nebraska’s secondary, and if he can grow into his frame he could become a truly special contributor. This was also an impressive message to send to the rest of college football, as Williams has now beaten out USC, Ohio State and Florida for prospects in the past few weeks. Blades projects to a boundary corner, where he will battle with Lamar Jackson and Marquel Dismuke for reps in 2017. 2018 should be an interesting spring, as Blades, Dismuke, Jackson, Lee and Bootle will all be battling for the starting cornerback spots in Nebraska’s defense.
College Comparison: Michigan cornerback Channing Stribling
Pro Comparison: Less polished version of Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore