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Bears draftee Shea McClellin gets a rush from pressuring passers

The Bears’ first-round draft choice SheMcClellsaid “WhI wanted do was rush passer.” | Above: Julie Jacobson~AP; Top: Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

The Bears’ first-round draft choice, Shea McClellin, said, “What I wanted to do was rush the passer.” | Above: Julie Jacobson~AP; Top: Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 30, 2012 8:28AM

Whenever his offense stepped onto the field against Boise State, TCU coach Gary Patterson always played the in-game version of “Where’s ­Waldo?”

But instead of looking for a bespectacled young man with a white and red cap, Patterson searched for Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who could be lined up in nearly any quadrant of the field.

“Besides being a guy who had a high motor, he’s very smart, and he played a lot of positions,” Patterson said. “Right and left side. Cover tight ends.

“You name it, and he did it.”

That versatility is one of his greatest assets, the reason 3-4 teams such as the New England ­Patriots and Green Bay Packers were among those intrigued by him, the reason why he skyrocketed the last couple months from a potential third-rounder to a first-rounder.

“I do take pride in being versatile,” McClellin said, “and I love doing what I can to help the team.

“Whatever. Special teams, DB [defensive back] if they want me to. That’s the type of person I am.”

But pressed on his preference, McClellin relented and acknowledged his true passion.

“There’s just something about it. It’s my opportunity to let loose, basically,” McClellin said of rushing the passer. “I love the competition. It’s a one on one battle with the guy across from you.

“I don’t think there’s a better position to have, then to get after the quarterback.”

Heading into the draft, many NFL analysts projected McClellin as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. But two NFC personnel executives said McClellin has the athleticism and size to play defensive end in a 4-3 system such as that used by Lovie Smith.

Both used the word “versatile,” and one added that the Bears made a very good selection.

Can he cover tight ends? Can he drop into coverage? Can he tackle running backs?

Yes, he can do all those things, but he’s most passionate about chasing the quarterback.

“What I wanted to do was rush the passer, no matter what [scheme] that’s in. I could care less,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in, to be honest. It’s going to be awesome.”

Whitney Mercilus of Illinois and Chandler Jones of Syracuse were among the defensive ends available, but Emery said McClellin ­possesses natural abilities that other players didn’t have.

“It’s just natural instincts in terms of feeling pressure,” Emery said. “Say if an offensive tackle was trying to reach to my outside, he instantly has a feel for feeling that block, getting his body in a right leverage position and working off that block to the ball.

“Taking his natural and his quickest path from the blocker to the ball possible. Some people possess it at a high level. He does. Some don’t, they get stuck on blocks. They are the type of guy you see in good lock-out position and they are all squared up and they are ready and the ball carrier goes right by them. They are not reactive from block to ball. Shea has that ability at a very high level.”

At Boise State, McClellin’s knack for stunts made the Broncos defense a difficult one to deal with. He’d shoot gaps, or he’d drop back to cover a running back or tight end.

For his career, McClellin finished with 20 ½ sacks, forced five fumbles and intercepted four passes.

As for questions about the level of competition, even Patterson pointed to his performance against blue-chip programs like Virginia Tech and Georgia.

In victories against those teams, McClellin totaled five sacks and 6 ½ tackles for loss.

“He played a lot of good football,” Patterson said, “and he had all the intangibles.”

McClellin doesn’t shy away from the concerns about him.

“To all those doubters, I’m going to have to prove myself and I’m used to that,” he said. “I came from Boise State, where we had to prove ourselves every week.”

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