After three years with the program, Kentucky nose guard Marquan McCall has racked up 48 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 31 total games played. With Quinton Bohanna manning the middle in that span, though, the 6-foot-3, 379-pound native of Detroit, Mich. has served as a serviceable rotation piece rather than the anchor and face of the defensive line.
With Bohanna off to the NFL, however, UK defensive coordinator Brad White expects McCall to not only take over that role, but thrive as a key “difference-maker” for the defense.
“You’ve got a guy in Marquan McCall that has played significant snaps, played as a true freshman. Now he’s in year four here and he understands this is his time,” White said of McCall to open fall camp. “His body is in as good of shape as he’s been since I’ve been here and he’s been here; we sort of came in together. He’s ready to take that step.
“… He’s obviously solidified his spot there at nose.”
As Bohanna proved during his time in Lexington, White sees the nose guard position as one of three key pieces of a 3-4 defense that can change the entire trajectory of your team. McCall showed he could do it in three starts against Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina last season, and now, White expects that production to take yet another significant step forward as the number of reps ramp up for the senior standout.
“We’ve talked about it before, when you’re strong down the middle in a 3-4 defense with a nose guard, inside linebacker and safety, you’ve got a chance to be a really good football team. You’ve got a chance to dominate,” White said. “He’s going to give us that opportunity to continue to be strong in the middle. What he’s done is, if you turn on games he’s started in Georgia, Missouri, different games when (Quinton Bohanna) was out, he gives you a little bit of a chance to play more hash to hash. He can run down plays against outside zone schemes.”
Not only has McCall improved physically – Cats Illustrated’s Justin Rowland reported this morning the Detroit native had lost 40 pounds this offseason and is now below 350 pounds for the first time since high school – but White says his mental growth in terms of overall maturity is a game-changer for not only himself, but the program as a whole.
“Probably the biggest change from a freshman to where he is now as a senior as anyone on the defensive roster from a maturity standpoint,” White said of McCall. “He’d be the first to admit, everybody can continue to grow in that. That’s not an end game process. He is ready and I think you saw – and we talked about it in the spring – that when he was the starter, there was a more dialed-in focus in those games last year. Those games that he wasn’t, it would drift and we’d have to pull him back in and reign him in.”
Now, McCall knows this is his defensive line and the opportunity to put on a show every week is on the table. If that mindset remains, the sky is the limit for the standout nose guard during his senior campaign.
“He knows this is his opportunity, his shot,” White said. “Him and Josh (Paschal), he knows this is their front. He’s taken on that leadership role and he’s as focused as he’s ever been. He just texted me this morning and said ‘I’m all in, ready to go.’ That’s where his mind is, his mindset is, and we need to keep it there because he does have a chance to be a difference-maker for us and we need him to be that.”