The Cal Bears were making changes under Sonny Dykes and nobody appeared more prepared to benefit from those changes than Chris McCain. The long-time outside linebacker was moving down to the defensive end position where he would be able to focus on using his length and athleticism to get after the quarterback on a more consistent basis. However, McCain has blown that opportunity, reportedly being suspended indefinitely from the program for academic issues.
McCain had the physical tools to be a breakout star in 2013. At 6-foot-6, he had the length to create leverage on the edge and the speed and athleticism to get around blockers and harass the quarterback. He did well on a part-time basis in 2012 from the outside linebacker position and could have blossomed into a future NFL talent after his move to defensive end.
The NFL is always looking for excellent pass rushers with versatility and will go after college players who show that upside, like Dion Jordan with the Oregon Ducks last season. McCain had that opportunity laid out for him to take his pass-rushing ability to the next level while utilizing his athleticism from being a linebacker to drop into coverage in zone-blitz packages or line up in multiple positions on the defense.
But when you attend an institution like Cal, the student part of being a student-athlete is equally important, if not more so, as what you can do on a football field. As a member of that program, and someone who has been there for two years already, taking care of business in the classroom should always be a priority. McCain failed to live up to his responsibilities in the classroom and it will cost him his opportunity on the football field.
Potential can only take you so far. At some point, you have to step up to the bar and do what needs to be done. McCain was on the cusp of becoming a premier talent in the Pac 12 and jumping onto NFL draft boards. But now, he’s a borderline player with a character red-flag. Will he be able to turn things around to continue the dream?