A football player prepares to tackle an opponent
Caleb Blake came to Missouri State after spending two seasons at Colorado State and one at Florida State. He’s started all four games for the Bears at cornerback in 2022. (Photo: Missouri State Athletics)

Caleb Blake’s road to Missouri State has been long and winding, but he’s found a home as a starting cornerback for the Bears.

The three-star recruit out of Bishop Moore High in Orlando, Florida, spent two seasons at Colorado State. Blake preserved his redshirt status by appearing in only four games as a freshman. During the 2020 COVID-19 season, he did not play as the Rams played only four games.

Blake spent last season at one of college football’s big-name schools, Florida State. He appeared in nine games and finished with two tackles and a pass breakup. Looking for more playing time, he was on the move again.

Past connections to Missouri State defensive coordinator Ryan Beard led him to Springfield. Beard had recruited Blake while on Petrino’s staff at Louisville.

“It’s been very good since I’ve been here,” Blake said this week. “It’s a real homey place. I got here by knowing Coach Beard a long time ago. I’d say for eight years, since my sophomore year in high school.

“I’m glad I’m here and I’m blessed to be here.”

A long recruiting process

Blake is one of 26 transfers from Football Bowl Subdivision programs on the Missouri State roster. Coach Bobby Petrino has said he’s not exactly a fan of the mass mobility that the transfer portal provides, but it’s a way of doing business in 2022 and Petrino has used it to enhance the Bears’ roster. 

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These days, you can never burn a bridge if a recruit initially goes somewhere else. There’s always a chance that a player, like Blake, might circle back around later on.

“It kind of goes back to recruiting him out of high school a long time ago,” Petrino said of Blake. “He’s had a couple of different stops, but Coach Beard had a really good relationship with him and his mom. 

“The recruiting process came back to us and Coach Beard and their relationship. We’re certainly glad that Caleb chose to come here.”

Blake’s competitive spirit shines

Petrino said the 6-foot, 187-pound sophomore came in and earned his playing time “through dedication and performance” on the field. There was no air of coming from the Florida State program or anything of the sort.

“First, he’s really tough,” Petrino said of Blake. “He’s a great competitor and has really good confidence. At that position, that’s what you have to do — and then have a real short memory. 

“Corner is one of the toughest positions to play, but his competitive spirit has stood out. We’re excited about the way he’s played.”

Feeding off All-American teammate

Playing the corner opposite FCS All-American Montrae Braswell means opposing quarterbacks have tested Blake. The defense gave up too many big plays in last week’s 28-14 loss to South Dakota State, something that Blake said must be fixed as the Bears got on the road this Saturday to North Dakota.

“With Montrae on the other side, I kind of feed off what he does,” Blake said. “He’s been here and helps me a lot. We try to keep both sides on lock. He helps me on the field.

“Montrae is a very humble person. He plays fast and physical. With him, the attitude you have to be dialed in and focused. I look at the guy across from me as a big enemy. I try to be technical with what I do and make the person across from me … make his job hard.”

Blake said he enjoys playing for Petrino, Beard and cornerbacks coach Tramain Thomas. 

“They push you,” Blake said. “When you’ve known somebody for that long, they push you to go harder for those who are around you.”

Preparing for North Dakota

This week, Blake and the defense will be preparing for a North Dakota offense that has been known to break out a bag of tricks. Petrino said he expects 5-7 trick plays, such as reverses, flea-flickers or throws back to the quarterback. 

Noise could be another factor. The Fighting Hawks (2-2) play in the 13,500-seat, domed Alerus Center. The ninth-ranked Bears lost there in the spring of 2021, 44-10, in an FCS playoff first-round game.

“It’s like sign language,” Blake said of handling the noise when playing indoors. “You have to understand your teammate and what he’s saying with his hands. You have to be smart and tuned in when communicating across the field.”

The Caleb Blake file

Position: Cornerback

Hometown: Winter Haven, Florida

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 187 pounds

2022 season: Has started all four games for the Bears with 17 tackles (one for lost yardage) and one pass breakup. 

2021 season at Florida State: Played in nine games in his only season for the Seminoles with two tackles and a pass breakup.

2019-20 at Colorado State: Appeared in four games as a freshman in 2019 and did not play in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.

High school: Helped Bishop Moore High in Orlando to a 5A state playoff berth as a senior in 2018. … Recorded 96 tackles with three interceptions and two forced fumbles. … Was a three-star recruit and 195th-ranked cornerback in the class of 2019.

Family: Is the son of Cleon Blake and Jessie Blake of Loganville, Georgia… Has three brothers — Michael, Rayshun and Mario.

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, co-hosts The Sports Reporters on Jock 96.9 FM, 99.9 FM and 1060 AM on Monday mornings with Ned Reynolds and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at Lscranton755@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton