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2020 Recruit Scouting Report: Craig McDonald

The first safety we are looking at.

Next up in our offseason recruiting series is a safety from Minneapolis, Craig McDonald. He stands at 6’3, 190 lbs and is the highest rated safety in Iowa State’s 2021 class by 247sports.com.

McDonald was ruled ineligible due to a rule of only 12 semesters in a varsity sport. Because he completed eighth grade twice, he was ruled ineligible. It’s a confusing situation, but the Star Tribune does a good job of explaining the fiasco in this article.

It’s a bummer that he wasn’t able to play his senior season and capitalize on his 2018 State Championship, but he was able to MFCA All-Star game, where he won defensive MVP.

In McDonald’s junior season he had four interceptions, 16 passes defended and 27 tackles. In two years as a starter on varsity, he recorded eight interceptions, 32 passes defended and 68 tackles.

Even though it won’t be as big of an advantage as normal, McDonald was an early enrollee and was able to participate in whatever spring activities the team was able to hold before the pandemic.

Style

A lot of McDonald’s strengths come from his natural abilities. A big frame, quick hands and feet, and strength are three things that can hardly be taught, but McDonald brings them to the table. With the natural aspects, he can play in a zone and a man coverage because of his ability to quickly close out or compete in a foot race.

Some weaknesses that I saw were some sloppy mechanics, which is common for players that grew up always being the best player on the field. It isn’t a glaring issue, but it’s an area that will need grooming if McDonald wants to compete in the Big 12.

Film

All highlights courtesy of hudl.com

The stakes on this play are extremely high, as is every play in a championship game. Playing way off of the line, McDonald did a really good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes before using his quickness to jump the passing lane and complete the interception.

One area that Iowa State defensive backs have lacked in has been aggressiveness in the pass game, so to see McDonald jump this route is promising. The part of this play that I would critique is how far off the ball he’s playing. I know that it’s a zone defense and by design, but if the receiver were to run a stop-and-go route, McDonald would be toast.

Another play with high stakes, McDonald was playing off of the line of scrimmage a bit in a zone coverage and was able to step up to make the game ending pass breakup. The receiver ran a pretty bad route which allowed McDonald to get an extra step on the play. Instead, he ran a pretty lazy turn around and the quarterback was a second late.

Nonetheless, it was still impressive that McDonald was able to get to get this ball, but he still didn’t play it perfectly in my opinion.

This is one of the better plays that I have seen from a recruit in zone coverage. First, he does a good job sticking with the receiver along the sidelines before cutting back and sticking with the turn around. As soon as he seals that coverage, he plays safety and moves over to the middle of the field to break up a pass after the strong safety got burned.

The ability to play man-to-man is great, but his position is listed as safety so it’s encouraging to see his ability to play over the top too. McDonald’s film is a little short on action, mainly because he wasn’t able to play his senior year, but from the little I saw of him actually playing safety, I was impressed.

The strength that McDonald displays on this coverage is what stuck out to me, from the start the receiver tried to create separation with his hands, but McDonald didn’t budge. By using his strength and speed, McDonald stuck with the receiver every step of the way, eventually forcing him out of bounds.

In order for a completion to be made on this play, it would’ve needed a perfect throw for it to have a chance. All in all, this was the perfect coverage of a fade route.

As I’ve already mentioned, McDonald is very talented athlete with speed, quickness, and instincts which of course leads to a pretty tackler. Although there wasn’t a lot of film of McDonald as a tackler, I saw potential in the little film I viewed. With what we’ve seen from Greg Eisworth in the past few years and even Kamari Cotton-Moya, tackling is a huge part of an Iowa State safety.

If McDonald is able to built more muscle, he will just become a better tackler at Iowa State.

Player Comparison

Jeremy Chinn: A second round draft pick in the 2020 NFL draft from Southern Illinois, 6’3 and 219 pounds. Strong and fast with the ability to play over the top, in a man coverage, and to hit hard.

The first comparison that stuck out to me was the unique size, 6’3 is pretty tall for a safety. With that size, both players make it up with some quickness and athleticism, even if it’s not the same as a 5’11 player. They both use their long arms to get in front of throws without committing a penalty.

Chinn is also a really good tackler because he played the STAR position a lot, with McDonald’s size, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the replacement for Greg Eisworth.

Scheme Fit

Non-tradition safeties like McDonald typically fit into Iowa State system well. If he puts on some weight, he will have the build of a linebacker with safety abilities. That more than likely means he will be a hybrid linebacker/safety when at Iowa State.

Final Verdict

I really like this player, I think he has the potential to fit into a system like Iowa State really well. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to play his senior year and clean up on some of his mechanics, but that’s something that can be fixed. Once he bulks up and becomes a more fluid player, McDonald will be a really good player in the cardinal and gold.