Al Blades Jr. getting used to playing safety

Oct 26, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After missing all but four games in 2021 because of myocarditis due to covid, Al Blades Jr. enters his fifth season with the Miami Hurricanes getting used to a position change from cornerback to safety. Al Blades Jr. is competing for snaps with sophomores Kamren Kinchens, Avantae Williams and James Williams.

Miami is deep and talented in the secondary entering 2021. The Hurricanes are far more experienced at CB than safety. Al Blades Jr. is mentoring sophomore safeties Kamren Kinchens, Avantae Williams and James Williams and freshman Brian Balom following his positions switch.

Speaking to reporters after practice on Tuesday, Blades discussed the position switch and mentoring the other Miami safeties. In four seasons playing CB, Blades has recorded 82 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Blades started seven games each in 2019 and 2020.

As a true freshman in 2018, Blades primarily played special teams. Blades was a special teams captain for two games in 2018. Blades will be playing for his third head coach at Miami in five seasons in 2022. Mark Richt recruited Blades and left after the 2018 season before Manny Diaz was head coach the last three years.

"“It’s going great. Just coming off fall camp but we(‘re) still going at it. School just started back, trying to keep all the young guys locked in. Getting used to just people being around us. Everybody just going just as hard as the last two weeks in camp. Everybody’s still going just as hard out there in that field…The thing about me is I feel like could play anywhere…on the defense and coach Addae feels the same way. So using me wherever they put me. I’m smart enough to learn multiple positions so I just let coach Addae and the coaches handle where they put me and then I just learn the defense and play ball.Mainly I’ve been practicing at safety lately because you know first time really playing college safety. Catching up on the curb and I feel like coach Addae did a good job of catching me up and getting me up to par. So yeah wherever he puts me that’s why I play..I consider myself someone that’s trying to mentor people to be better than me. So if I’m a leader I consider them to be leaders as well and to go above and beyond anything that I did and just leave it better than I found it so however you want to look at that’s how it is talk about teaching I guess.I love football no matter where I’m at. I mean safety, corner, nickel put me at d-line. I don’t care so as far as just being out here it feels good to be able to just go at any like to me personally I feel like I can go anywhere and just compete. They put me at the end, I feel like I’m gonna compete.I’m gonna fight for a spot. That’s what it is so wherever they put me. i just been fighting. It (experience at CB) definitely helps. Knowing how important it is to communicate with those corners just seeing certain sets that come out seeing when things are condensing when things are open.Just knowing what the corners reading. Knowing what I’m reading. Being able to see guards and tackles what they are doing. It just brings the whole defense together after knowing everything that’s going on. I think my skill set fits playing football. Wherever it is on the field.I mean I’m fast enough to play corner smart enough to play safety wherever they want me to go, I’ll go. That’s what has been the challenge of making that position change.”"

Blades switches to safety as a Miami legacy at the position. Al Blades Sr. and junior’s uncle Bennie also played safety at Miami. Bennie was the co-Thorpe Award winner as the best defensive back in college football in 1987. Blades Jr. will likely backup Kinchens and the Williams tandem in 2022.

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Communicating where to lineup while learning a new defense will be critical for the young Miami safeties this season. Miami will be able to ease into the season with the opener on September 3 versus Bethune-Cookman on September 3. Miami hosts Southern Mississippi week two before a trip to Texas A&M on September 17.