Photo courtesy of LSU athletics
The secondary was clearly a key concern when Arkansas went into the transfer portal. The next player featured will be joining Georgia transfer Latavious Brini in the defensive backs room.
Dwight McGlothern comes in as a junior with his COVID-19 year at his disposal. Going back to his high school days, he was well regarded. Standing at 6-foot-2, he is tall for a cornerback, increasing his stock. McGlothern was ranked as a top-300 player and the No. 20 cornerback nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The Spring, Texas native originally narrowed his list down to six schools before committing to LSU. Arkansas was one of those six schools, but the history at that time proved harsh. Now it seems his knowledge of the campus played dividends.
Stepping on campus in Baton Rouge following LSU’s 2019 national championship, McGlothern had chances to play. With the likes of top-five draft pick Derrick Stingley Jr. and now transfer Eli Ricks, playing time was hard to come by. The injury bug certainly aided McGlothern in making his way onto the field.
Toward the end of the 2020 season is when he got his first shot. He recorded stats in three games, starting in late November. Totaling nine tackles and eight solo, McGlothern added two pass deflections.
With injuries still handling the Tigers last season, it was McGlothern’s time to shine. He logged his first career interception which turned into a 37-yard touchdown against Florida. In terms of tackle numbers, he had 31 total, with 25 being solo stops. There were five pass deflections and a forced fumble also on his stat sheet.
His decision to transfer came as a shock to almost everyone following his sophomore year. With Stingley going pro and Ricks bailing for Alabama, he was expected to be the Tigers’ No. 1 guy. Coach Ed Orgeron’s departure from the bayou was enough for him to test the portal waters.
McGlothern only needed to wade in those waters for a short while as he committed to the Razorbacks just five days after entering the portal. Arkansas was dealing with the losses of two safeties itself. With two Louisiana-born defensive backs in Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. alternatively heading to LSU, it seemed like a trade. Arkansas may believe it is a trade it has won.
There were certainly holes at the corner spot during the 2021 season. The one reliable corner, Montaric Brown, left for the NFL Draft. That decision instantly made cornerback a position of need. Lots of youth remained behind, except for senior Ladarrius Bishop.
Another guy who can be considered a veteran at this point is Hudson Clark. With the lack of consistency among the two oldest players in the room, a transfer was needed. Insert McGlothern, who will need to step in immediately.
Here’s what he brings to the back end of Arkansas’ defense:
Closing Speed on Run and Pass Plays
It did not matter where the ball was on the field, McGlothern was going to find it — at least when that was his duty. Outside of his ability to cover in man, his play recognition stands out the most. Starting with outside runs, he has the ability to snuff them out.
While it only happened on a couple occasions, ball carriers did come his way. He can slither to the outside of blockers while not going too wide to close in on plays quickly. There is a fine line between giving up the edge or allowing a gap. It appears McGlothern has a feel for that balance.
The same mentality is reflected on screens and short passes. Reflecting his great play recognition, McGlothern can shut them down for very little gains. Closing a 10-yard gap on Alabama’s Jameson Williams is a feat of its own.
A swing pass to his side, it didn’t matter that he was playing deep. McGlothern diagnosed the play almost instantly and charged in for the takedown. He would’ve been burned by Williams’ well-regarded speed if the decision took any longer.
There was also one play against Central Michigan that stands out. Matched up on what appeared to be a jet sweep, he stuck with the motion. It became a handoff to the running back, but he went nowhere. McGlothern blasted by the motioning receiver to lay the hit on the ‘trick’ play.
Shifting the focus further downfield, the interception against Florida is what stands out the most. That was an October contest where McGlothern came close to showing his full potential. Every time he was able to make a play on the ball, McGlothern was behind the intended target.
It sounds horrifying, but staying one or two steps behind worked for him. On the interception in particular, he was two steps behind the intended receiver. With the throw being slightly behind his man, McGlothern was able to close with ease. He had two other pass breakups in the game, which wouldn’t have come without his rapid closing speed.
Combining the ingredients of great play recognition and closing speed brings about another skill. McGlothern began to develop consistency in under-cutting receivers on their routes. He did this while matched up on some of the best in the SEC. Guys like Alabama’s Williams and Florida’s Jacob Copeland saw it firsthand.
Tackling in Space
Being a bigger body at corner, McGlothern certainly brings the ability to tackle consistently. Looking at his film, McGlothern never goes high to make a play. That’s a testament to discipline and coaching, as he always goes low to tackle.
It does not matter if it is a tight end or a slot receiver, he tackles from the waist down. Speed does seem to play a factor in his approach to tackling, however. McGlothern tends to tackle smaller, speedier player at the waste. Larger and usually slower players, such as tight ends, allow him to go lower.
Great play recognition along with a firm ability to tackle is a coach’s dream scenario. McGlothern brings that to the table.
He has also proven that he has the ability to knock the football loose. While it was only one occasion, it is still worth noting. Once again pestering Williams, the Alabama standout held the ball too far away from his body — his biggest flaw.
McGlothern was able to realize that and swatted the ball down to the ground. He’s not a hard hitter, but McGlothern’s headiness caused the turnover.
For McGlothern, there are a couple things that can be improved upon. He has a natural feel for man coverage, although his head isn’t always turned toward the ball. For that reason, he is susceptible to pass interference calls.
On top of that, McGlothern tends to get handsy with receivers. It happened more during his freshman year and has been tended to since. Weaknesses can be coached into strengths with speed not being a worry in his game.
The words out of spring practices have been all positive thus far. That means McGlothern is accepting the coaching and striving to get better. Transferring in and arguably becoming the best corner on the roster is tough sledding.
Whether he feels the pressure or not, McGlothern has the potential to be a great one for years to come. While Jalen Catalon holds down the back end, McGlothern will be relied on to hold down the outside and raise internal competition to another level.