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Class of 2021 Prospect Profiles: Ja’Den McBurrows

The 2x state champ proved himself as a senior and could see the field early at Michigan

Maryland v Michigan Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Ja’Den McBurrows

Position: CB

High School: St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), previously American Heritage (FL)

Measurables: 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

Ranking: Three-star (.8734 composite), No. 549 overall, No. 43 CB

Other finalists: Miami

Accolades: 1x 1st Team All-State, 1x 1st Team All-County, 2x State Champion

Recruitment

At the time Ja’Den McBurrows committed to Michigan, there was some consternation about the program taking low three-stars like Dominick Giudice and Casey Phinney so early.

Even though McBurrows was ranked just above 600th in the country when he committed, he wasn’t grouped in with those players. Why? He held offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State.

Those offers belied his ranking, which raised questions about their legitimacy. Usually, schools of that caliber will offer a prospect basically as an invitation to camp at their school. If they pass that test, then they’ll be considered a take. Well, McBurrows obviously wasn’t able to make any of those visits, so Michigan took a gamble and accepted him into their class in the spring.

So far, that gamble looks to have paid off at least somewhat. After going 15-0 as a junior and winning a state title, McBurrows upped his game again as a senior.

He performed well enough during the season to move up from an 85 rating to an 88 rating on 247Sports. His overall ranking only went up around 50 spots, but given how many prospects were added to the ranks during the season, that equates to a big jump.

This kept schools like Ohio State sniffing around throughout the cycle. The playoff contenders never got too serious, but schools like Miami were trying valiantly to keep McBurrows home.

At the very end of the cycle, it looked like that effort might pay off. Even though McBurrows took the trip up to Ann Arbor for the Wisconsin game so he could campus for the first time, he still had doubts come signing day. The night before, he wasn’t sure if he was going to sign with the Wolverines or not.

Eventually, he was convinced this was the right move and ended up making it official. Now McBurrows has the opportunity to play early as the only cornerback currently in the class.

Stats

Junior (15 games): 37 tackles, 6 INTs, 15 PBUs, 4 blocked punts

Senior (9 games): 19 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 PBUs

Scouting

Maize n Brew scouting report

Pros:

  • Great football IQ and anticipation
  • Great closing speed and quick feet
  • Can open hips well and run with the receiver

Cons:

  • Small stature can be an issue against bigger receivers
  • Questions about experience in man coverage
  • Can lose awareness of receiver when reading QB

McBurrows stands at only 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, so he lacks the lengthy frame NFL scouts run and it will impact his ceiling. He makes up for his height with great instincts and lightning-fast closing speeds.

McBurrows was on a state champion relay team as a freshman (with Patrick Surtain II, Anthony Schwartz, and Tyson Campbell — holy crap) and has a personal best of 11.01 seconds in the 100 meters.

At St. Thomas Aquinas, McBurrows played a lot of zone coverage, which suited his skills. He’s adept at reading what’s unfolding in front of him and adapting quickly. He recognizes receivers coming into his zone and reads where the quarterback is going, leading him to his fair share of pass break-ups and interceptions.

This combination of play recognition and closing speed also makes him a killer of screens, where he shows willing physicalness to fight off blocks and get to the ball-carrier.

Occasionally, McBurrows can get stuck on the quarterback and lose track of his man. This reliance on zone coverage also means he doesn’t have as much experience in press man. Without Don Brown this will be less of a problem, but he is going to have to match up with receivers one-on-one.

McBurrows is able to open up his hips fast and run with receivers, so he should be fine in man coverage. His aggressiveness in the screen game should also help him with disrupting receivers off the line.

He’ll always have his struggles against bigger receivers, but McBurrows’ could be an elite nickel defender with his skills. His intelligence on the field could also allow him to see the field early at Michigan.