JuTahn McClain excited for extended role


JuTahn McClain (17) runs through a drill during fall camp on Kentucky’s practice field on Aug. 10, 2021.

Barkley Truax

Chris Rodriguez Jr. isn’t the only running back to keep an eye on in Kentucky’s backfield this season.

Sophomore Jutahn McClain is expected to obtain a featured role in Kentucky’s new-look offense after an impressive showing at practice over the off-season. He’s expected to play the part of a receiving back in 2021.

“I just absolutely love the kid,” Offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “He’s the type of kid that wants to do everything right.” 

Coen said McClain has a very diverse skill set in the sense he can split out wide, catch the football out of the backfield, run the ball and most importantly, he has a sharp football I.Q. 

Having versatility in the slot means opening the game up in a way that will leave defenses guessing. McClain has experience in this very role, as he was an all-purpose back in high school; it’s natural for him, he’s not just a running back, he’s a football player.

“He is generally very good catching the football and making plays out of the backfield,” head coach Mark Stoops said about McClain. “He does a lot of things well. To be honest with you, he’s a pretty complete player.”

Over the off-season, McClain said he bulked up slightly, focusing on his legs and core to help him run the ball the way he wants: with some power, but staying light on his feet. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, a great man once said.

Not only has he been impressive in the physical aspect of the game, his football knowledge is growing as the season draws closer. His coaches love his I.Q. and it showed during Fan Day last Saturday, where McClain found some lanes and broke free in the limited contact 11-on-11 scrimmage.

“My confidence is going up a lot,” McClain said. “I’m learning how to read defenses, that’s slowing (the game) down a lot.”

Once the game can slow down for any athlete, the better their performance will be. Will this be the breakout year for McClain where he cements his name as Kentucky’s next great running back?

That remains to be seen, as the pressure of adding a new aspect to your game in the middle of your collegiate career and going against the grain of a normal running back is harrowing enough.

“It’s not demanding when you love it,” McClain said about his new role. “You look forward to it everyday; you want to be the best player on the field at all times.”