After the transfers of Patrick McMorris and CJ Baskerville to Power 5 programs in the first part of 2023, the heralded safety room at San Diego State was suddenly a question mark. Not devoid of talent, the collection was filled with youth and inexperience.
The incoming transfer of JD Coffey III from Texas before spring camp injected Power 5 talent, although Coffey’s 87 snaps over two seasons did not help the inexperience.
On May 5th, Coffey’s fellow Big-12 Conference mate, Deshawn Mccuin, who played at TCU the past four seasons, announced his commitment to SDSU on Instagram.
In an interview on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Football Podcast, Mccuin (6’0, 195) said his decision to leave TCU was based on searching for playing time and a new opportunity to eventually make it to the NFL.
He entered the portal on April 15th after the conclusion of TCU’s spring camp, which saw two early enrollees in the class of 2023 impress at the safety position.
Mccuin fielded offers from schools such as Utah, Houston, Indiana, and Old Dominion. Ultimately, Mccuin loved the camaraderie of the Aztec coaching staff and found faith in them to help him reach the next level.
“I feel like I made a great decision to come (to SDSU), and I am ready to start playing ball,” Mccuin said.
Kenny Canady, Mccuin’s defensive coordinator at Jacksonville High School (Jacksonville, TX), called him a “freak athlete” who, despite his physical gifts, works harder than anyone he has ever seen.
“(Mccuin) had the athletic ability and pushed himself even further to enhance those abilities … he was just a freak of nature,” Canady told EVT in an exclusive interview.
Canady credits Mccuin’s ability to read offenses to watching an endless amount of film before and after practices.
“He was a true student of the game,” he recalled. “He knew what offenses were going to do before they did it. That was probably his biggest asset other than his physical attributes.”
His physical attributes are accentuated by his elite athleticism, which Mccuin believes can elevate any safety room he joins. During the ETSN/APEC East Texas Combine several years ago, Mccuin ran a 4.51 40-yd dash, measured a 39-in vertical and 123-in broad jump.
“I feel like being as athletic as I am and able to move around in that back seven, it helps me a lot,” Mccuin added. “It helps me coming out of my break … (and) being able to track the ball.”
Mccuin was quick to point out that the combine measurements noted above are outdated. He now runs a 4.42 40-yd dash and jumps a 45-in vertical while maintaining the same broad jump, and has had discussions with SDSU special teams coordinator Doug Deakin about potentially utilizing his speed in the return game.
To put Mccuin’s athleticism in context, a 4.42 40-yd dash and a 45-in vertical jump would have been better than any safety recorded in this year’s NFL Draft Combine, while the 123-in broad jump would have ranked ninth.
He models his game after former LSU and current New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, a member of the NFL’s 2010 All-Decade Team.
“The way he flies around, how physical he is, how he can cover from the hash to the sideline, and how smart he is intellectually about the game of football,” responded Mccuin when asked why he chose to emulate the Honey Badger.
Canady, who is also a second cousin of Mccuin, talks often with him, usually about topics unrelated to football. But when Mccuin entered the transfer portal and was evaluating schools, Canady was one of the first people he called.
Both felt the opportunity to play in SDSU’s 3-3-5 defense suited Mccuin’s experience and skill set best. In high school under Canady, Mccuin played nickel corner as a sophomore, started at outside corner as a junior, and started at safety as a senior.
His transition from corner to safety came as a result of a heavy off-season training program.
“Not being highly recruited as a junior lit a fire underneath him that changed his mentality,” Canady explained. “(Mccuin) got after it in the weight room, put on 10 to 12 pounds worth of muscle. He did a lot over the summer to increase his body size and mass, and he played with a chip on his shoulder.”
With the added weight, he no longer fit the mold of a traditional corner. He attended a TCU football camp, and the staff recommended he work out at safety. With those promising results, the transition was complete heading into his senior season.
“I believe that given his background of playing nickel, then actual corner, and then translating that to safety, he will be a perfect fit into SDSU’s scheme because you can virtually put him anywhere,” said Canady. “Having played in a 3-4, 3-3-5, and 4-2-5, he’s very adaptive in terms of his knowledge base of any defense that they put him in.”
Mccuin, a 3-star recruit, was the 86th-best safety in the country and 131st overall player in Texas when he committed to TCU over Incarnate Word and Louisiana-Monroe.
In 2019, he played four games (the maximum allowed without burning a redshirt season) and 36 snaps on special teams. His nine games played in 2020 was the most of the four seasons at TCU, but only 14 of his 160 snaps were on defense that year.
2021 had the potential for Mccuin’s breakout after he started in week 4 against SMU, played 47 snaps at safety, and hauled in an interception. His performance earned a 73.7 defensive grade per Pro Football Focus. Unfortunately, Mccuin suffered an injury and missed the remainder of the season.
In his final season at TCU, Mccuin was not able to crack the regular rotation at safety under new defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie, who brought a 3-3-5 defense to TCU. Mccuin played only 53 snaps at safety over three games but continued to play extensively on special teams as the Horned Frogs made it to the National Championship Game.
“The journey was the best thing of it all, just being able to grow with my teammates and win ball games,” Mccuin said when asked about last year’s experience. “That journey was very gut-wrenching, (lots of) blood, sweat, and tears. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it helped structure me into the football player that I am today. I’ll never take that opportunity for granted.”
While football is a key element of the man Mccuin has become, education is not far behind. Canady continues to see that every day.
“In high school, he worked as hard in the classroom, if not harder, than he did on the football field,” he said. “His mom expected nothing less than A’s; that’s all they ever talked about.”
Mccuin leaves TCU with a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Certificate in the Business of Supply Chain. At SDSU, he will work towards a Master’s in Sports Marketing, something he knows will help secure a higher-paying job anywhere in the country.
“Growing up, I didn’t really see a lot of people get their Master’s,” Mccuin said. “My mom is the only one that has her Master’s in the family. I haven’t really seen that type of work ethic or that type of energy that it takes to get a Master’s, so this is very new to me, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.”
In addition to his own grades, Mccuin often seeks ways to help others as much as possible. He often tutored high school teammates who struggled with classwork so they did not fall behind.
While at TCU, Mccuin made sure to give back to the city he was born and raised in. He showed up to Jacksonville Middle School, where Canady is currently the boys’ athletic coordinator, on two different occasions without prompt to mentor Canady’s seventh and eighth-grade classes.
“He spent two days with us giving a clinic on being a collegiate athlete,” Canady said. “It’s just something in his heart and soul to be able to do that. Giving back to the kids and the youth of Jacksonville is one of his sole purposes. He’s completely selfless, and I tremendously appreciate him for it.”
This past January, only three days after TCU played in the National Championship Game, Mccuin returned to East Side Elementary in Jacksonville to speak to students and thank the teachers that helped shape his journey.
“They’re the future of the world, in my opinion,” responded Mccuin when asked why he volunteers his time to speak to kids. “They’re next up, so I want to be able to show them what it takes in order to get to that. Not just sportswise but education and being able to give back when you can … I feel like a lot of people in Jacksonville should do it but don’t, and so I feel like I should step up and take that responsibility of making sure they are guided in the right way. I love those kids down there.”
His journey now leads him to San Diego, a city he visited only twice before he took his official visit to SDSU. His aim in transferring was to find playing time that could propel him to the NFL. Joining a talented unit that returns starters at two of the three safety positions and a bevy of others fighting for that third spot, Mccuin will have to make up for lost time.
His familiarity with the 3-3-5 and experience in high school playing nickel corner will help his learning curve.
“I was talking to coach Hoke, and we went over some options of what position to play, and it helps me being more versatile in this defense,” Mccuin said. “I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and experience to play any position on the field. As of right now, I think I’m going to be at field (warrior). Based on how I do in (fall) camp, they’ll see if I fit better at the Aztec or the field (warrior).”
According to Canady, Mccuin would not want it any other way than to fight for a spot.
“He’s extremely competitive and wants to win at whatever it is, so that fires him up and is the catalyst of his whole personality,” added Canady.
The competition resumes this summer.
Avid sports fan and historian of basketball, baseball, football and soccer. UC San Diego and San Diego State alumni living in America’s Finest City. Diverse team following across multiple sports leagues, but Aztecs come first in college athletics.