Keenan Nelson Jr., Cornerback
6’0” 197 lbs
Rivals Rating = 5.8 / 4 star
Cornerback Keenan Nelson Jr. is a 4 star prospect from Philadelphia, PA. He is one of two recruits out of Pennsylvania in the 2022 recruiting class. According to his prospect profile, he was recruited by defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and special teams coach Pete Lembo.
Nelson coming in at 6 feet, 197 pounds is most comparable to current Gamecock Cam Smith. Although Nelson is a physical defensive back like Smith, there are differences in the way they play. Nelson is more fluid in his movements and is usually a sure tackler — attempting to square up when he comes up to hit. On the other hand, coming out of high school Smith was more of a violent player in both his movements and in tackling, often going for the big hit.
Nelson has everything coaches look for in a cornerback. As a press man defender, he can play aggressively at the line of scrimmage and is also effective in zone coverage. He has excellent speed and the few times his man does get separation, Nelson has shown a burst to quickly make up the difference. Once he identifies the ball carrier, Nelson plants his foot and exhibits an explosiveness to cover ground quickly, square up, and make the tackle. When in coverage, Nelson fluidly flips his hips when needing to adjust and gives himself the opportunity to make a play on the ball or man.
Like most of the defensive backs in the 2022 class, Nelson has the ability to play other positions in the secondary. The skill set and size he brings should allow him to be successful at any of defensive back spots he plays. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nelson getting looks at cornerback, nickel, and safety throughout his collegiate career.
The more film seen on Nelson, the more it proves he’s absolutely worthy of his 4 star status. Nelson has the skill set, frame, talent, and explosive ability to come in and push for immediate playing time. While there are some distinctly talented players in the Carolina 2022 recruiting class, if Nelson lives up to his potential, he could end up being one of the best.