Tanner McCalister 2018 Rockwall-Heath DB

Eric Nahlin

Recruiting Editor
Staff member
Dec 19, 2011
Thoreau'd on Walden
After covering stellar defensive back classes in 2014 and 2015 the state of Texas reversed course a bit in 2016 and 2017. The state still had its share of talent, but '14 and '15 were just too good to consistently emulate. The class of 2018 looks to be a return to form for the nation's most abundant talent pool (unadjusted for per capita).

Like wide receivers in 2017, schools from across the nation should benefit from the vast resources the state has to offer at defensive back.

One such player who has piqued my interest early is Rockwall-Heath defensive back, Tanner McCalister. While he may not be quite as well known as some of his contemporaries, he takes a back seat to no one and will become a household name before you know it.

His highlights are set to private now, which is unfortunate for those who like physical corner play. You'll have to take my word for it, he comes up in support quickly and ill-intentioned.

I caught up with McCalister for a brief interview ahead of the start of his junior season this Friday.

Inside Texas:
I was looking at your schedule and it looks tough. In fact don't you start off with Wylie East?

Tanner McCalister: Yes we start off with Wylie East and we have a tough district too.

IT: One of the first things I noticed about you is your size and physicality. I'm sure you'll bump into Eno Benjamin (Wylie East RB, committed to Iowa) a time or two.

TM: Because of my physicality I'll probably play some free safety too so I'm sure I'll see him out there.

IT: Now, you wouldn't be the first safety who is physical from Rockwall-Heath. Texas has a guy who's making some noise.

TM: Yes, I played with Deshon Elliott.

IT: Okay, I was wondering that. I didn't know if there was any overlap with him being 2015 and you being 2018.

TM: As a true freshman I actually started at corner with Deshon at safety and David Richardson who signed with Tulsa at the other corner. Back in high school Deshon was a character, but he's the one who got me in my comfort zone in high school. Coming in from junior high I thought I was a star but the first day in pads he put me on my butt. He's the one who really pushed me as a player. I never played defense until I got to high school. I was always a running back. Me and Deshon still work out to this day when he's back in town.

IT: I think you work out with Coach Flight, correct? What sort of things do you work on?

TM: Yes, I started working with Coach Flight this Summer. We work on footwork a lot. People think because I'm physical I just press but I can play off for an entire game if I have to. We work on playing off a lot.

IT: College coaches definitely want to see corners play off and be able to turn and run. It's much easier to press for sure. Switching to recruiting, what schools are you hearing from the most?

TM: Well, I have four offers: Louisiana Tech, UTSA, SMU, and TCU as my first Big 12 offer. I've talked to the Georgia coach. He wanted me to get down there but with the flight I wasn't going to be able to make it but they still want me to visit. Three coaches from Alabama started following me on Twitter. I'm also hearing from A&M. I was supposed to camp there on a Sunday. Trevor Elbert (former teammate, 2015 A&M OL signee) was talking to Coach Banks and Coach Joseph about me but that was the week I went to OU's BBQ.

IT: Oklahoma's on a very good run of recruiting right now. What sort of things did they tell you?

TM: Coach Cooks loved me just off of seeing my build. He told me he was going to come and see a game and he basically said it was just a matter of time before they'll offer. I think he wants to see midseason film. Texas pretty much said the same. Coach Jennings said I had a good showing at Under the Lights. I'm sure Deshon is telling him a lot about me too.

IT: Given that you still have two seasons left that's a good start to your process. The 2018 class is loaded at defensive back but you're one of the best I've seen. I appreciate your time and good luck this season.

TM: Yes sir, thank you.

Currently a composite three-star, I think that ranking is off. I see McCalister as a four-star (92 range) and if I'm working a personnel department he's one of the defensive backs I hard-sell for the cycle.

With him playing safety this season he may get some offers at that position as well. Even if a school had questions about his coverage ability from corner, he certainly has the range, quickness, and foot speed for safety, plus at 6-o, 185 pounds with a wide build, he'll easily carry 200 plus pounds early in college. Nickel could also be an option, that's how versatile he is.

A TCU offer is a very good 'tell' on McCalister's ability as DB. Look for him to land many more telling offers, including Texas and Oklahoma, as well as some from the physical SEC over the coming months.


Member Who Talks (A Lot!)
Sep 15, 2013
I caught his hudl before it was set private. He's a stud. Especially if he's actually 6'0.

He has a knack for running receivers' routes for them. He also plays run force like he's shot out of a cannon.