Vaught's Views: Visits to Florida, Alabama overwhelm McCloud

June 20, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If Andrew McCloud had to pick one word to describe his last month, it would have to be "overwhelmed."

"Overwhelmed is about the best word I know to describe it," said McCloud. "I would say it has been fun. I've got to meet a lot of well-known people and also let people learn a lot more about what I can do."

That's because the Mercer County senior running back has gone from being practically an unknown in the recruiting ranks to a player hearing from some of the nation's premier programs.

He just got back from a three-day camp at Florida where he was one of two players named most improved running back.


On his way back to Harrodsburg, he stopped at Alabama because running backs coach Sparky Woods had been pleading with him to do so.

"Alabama has a real nice campus, too," McCloud said. "They are building a new facility for players with a big players' lounge and a new weight room. It was hard not to like it."

Apparently it has been hard for college recruiters not to like McCloud. He's gone from a 170-pound player who could run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and bench press 260 pounds a year ago to a player who ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds at two combines last month, bench presses 325 pounds and now weighs 188 pounds.

That's why coaches from Kentucky, Louisville, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky and many others now have McCloud on their recruiting lists.

"I've always had good expectations for myself and have set high goals," McCloud, who rushed for 1,903 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, said. "All this exposure adds a little bit of pressure, but I am still trying to have fun. If things are meant to be, they will happen. I'll just see where this all takes me."

He'll attend camp at Kentucky this week. He'll also be at some passing camps with his Mercer teammates and he'll head to Auburn in mid-July for another camp.

The Scotties are also going to hold their own team camp at Oxford, Ohio.

"I think we've all seen the movies of team camps and how hard they can be," McCloud said. "We are all wondering what it will be like, but it should be a good bonding experience for our team."

McCloud is big on "team." He insists his individual goals will not supersede his team goals. He noted how he learned ways to better protect the football while he was at Florida's camp, something he would not have seemed to need help with considering he seldom fumbled last year.

"I learned how to hold the ball and carry it the right way. I also learned some new moves," McCloud said. "The main thing I want this year is to get our team going. I know we could have something pretty special if we do things the right way."

McCloud will be the focal point. He skipped baseball this year and spent time concentrating on his leg strength to improve his speed, a move that obviously worked as he became one of the area's best sprinters during track season. His impressive 40-yard dash times made recruiters notice him and when they went back to look at video, those same coaches also discovered he was a hard runner.

Still, he knows not to get his heart set on one school or he might be disappointed before the recruiting process ends. Some schools have been forthright and told him they envisioned him only as a kick return specialist. Some see him as a full-time running back even though he's only 5-10.

"There are tons of athletes who are as good, or better, than me. I've seen that at the Florida and Alabama camps," McCloud said. "I am just trying to wait and see who offers what and go with what happens. You have to have everything in order, from your grades to your health."

He knows he might have to make a decision about being a full-time player at a smaller school or a part-time specialist at a bigger school. Or he may have to decide between taking a full scholarship to a smaller school or possibly walking on for a year at a bigger school.

"I have to think about all that," he said. "I want to look at everything and see what is best for my talents. But at least it looks like I am going to have some options. That's why it's easy just to enjoy all this right now and know I have a long time to make a decision."

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