Why USC transfer Munir McClain switched positions — and why his ceiling is ‘sky-high’
Here’s what Utah coaches saw in McClain that made them believe he should move from wide receiver to tight end
Munir McClain was a wide receiver when he transferred to Utah from Pac-12 South rival USC after the 2019 season.
After playing in two games on special teams in 2021 for the Utes, McClain has been switched from receiver to tight end.
“Coaches believe that’s going to be the best fit for me in this offense. That’s the move right now,” said the 6-foot-4, 226-pound sophomore from Atlanta. “It’s a mutual agreement. They think that’s the best move for me. They’ve been doing this for a long time. There was no hesitation from me to move to tight end.”
What did the coaches see in McClain that made them believe he could play tight end?
“His size. He’s 230 with room to put on another five or 10 pounds,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “Physically, he’s got the profile for a tight end. We’re having so much success with Brant Kuithe, he’s the same style of player. He has a lot of receiver skills. We think that he’s got a bright future.”
Tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham also pointed out McClain’s frame.
“He’s got great size. He’s 6-3, close to 230 pounds and has an 83-inch wingspan. He’s got the frame to put on more weight,” he said. “He ran a 4.47 in February. The ceiling for him is sky-high. He’s got a lot of athleticism. He will learn how to block on the line of scrimmage as a tight end. If he keeps developing, he can be one of those next great tight ends here at Utah.”
“The size, the frame, the athleticism,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “In the long term, we’re looking for the next player to fill the role that Brant Kuithe has had so much success with.”
McClain has watched Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid closely and during the spring is figuring out how to play the position with their help.
“They’re great players. I watch them a lot and I take in what they do and I put it in my pocket and in my toolbox. I’m glad I’m here learning from them,” he said. “They’re willing to help me and I take in whatever they’re talking about.”
Playing for Freddie Whittingham has been a good experience.
“He’s a cool coach. He knows what he’s doing,” McClain said. “You see the people he’s coaching — Dalton, Brant and Cole (Fotheringham). I just need to buy into what he’s coaching and I think I can do well.”
The transition from receiver to tight end hasn’t been particularly difficult, McClain said.
“If I was playing receiver, I’d be a bigger receiver. I need to get stronger as a tight end and make progress. It’s just the different people I have to block. I’m blocking a 250-pound D-end or linebackers. I just need to get stronger. I think I can excel at the position. I like playing tight end. I’m going to see what I can do and buy into the offense.”
McClain picked a good time to join the Utes program. In his first season, Utah won its first Pac-12 championship and first Rose Bowl appearance.
“It was just the best fit for me,” McClain said about transferring from USC. “I enjoy being here with a winning team. We won the Pac-12 championship last year. There are great things here. I enjoy being here. We win, and that’s what everybody wants to be part of, a winning team. First year transferring, winning a championship and playing in the Rose Bowl. It’s everyone’s dream.”
For now, during the spring, McClain is working to learn the tight end position.
“I just want to get better all around. I want to become a better football player,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m waiting to see what I can do and what I’m going to bring to the team.”