"Coming into (preseason) camp, you don't know anything. They throw the playbook at you and from day one you're pretty much clueless," he said. "You know how to play football, but it's a different offense and you have to learn pass protection and different routes.
"And it (the redshirt year) helped in the classroom. It's tough on the weekends when you have to travel and you get back late and still have homework to do."
Practice was a bit of an eye-opener from high school for the running back, too.
"The speed of the game was a definitely a lot faster. In high school, you're the fastest kid on the team, or one of the top two. In college, those defensive back are a lot faster than you, those linebackers are as fast as you. It's a whole new ball game," he said. "After that first time (he ran the ball) I thought, 'OK, I've got to speed it up a little.'"
McCloud spent much of last year learning the playbook, getting stronger and faster, and learning how to properly lift weights.
More comfortable on the field
"Coming in I was a little ahead of a few people, but there were a few things I didn't know, like how to properly power clean. Our new strength coach (Brad Ohrt), he stressed technique," McCloud said. "As freshman we had something called power hour three days a week where we get up at 5:30 in the morning and lift. That's where we learned about technique, and it helped a lot."
"I got up to 200 pounds in the winter and then we started conditioning, called 'Red Dawn.' For that we had to get up at 4:30 and do a running workout in February. You're running on the field with snow and you've got no gloves on. When you stretch, your hands go numb."
Now after going though one full season, off-season conditioning and spring practice, McCloud is a lot more confortable on the field.
"You open up the playbook and it looks a whole lot more familiar to you," he said. "The first two weeks (of spring practice) I did pretty well. I ran with the first- and second-team offense and got a lot better on pass protection."
McCloud suffered a setback at the end of spring practice when he was hit from behind, separated his right shoulder and had to miss the Red-White game. However, no surgery was needed.
"I was just coming up the sideline and I tried to run over someone and got hit from behind. That was frustrating," he said. "You practice for two weeks when it's hot, then when the fun time comes, the Red-White Game, I didn't get to play."
Wants to help at any position
Even at full strength, McCloud knows it's going to be tough getting many carries this season.
The Hilltoppers return senior all-Gateway Football Conference running back Lerron Moore, who ran for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and his backup, junior Stephen Willis.
"I'm just looking to get in there anywhere and help the team, whether it's on special teams or running the ball," McCloud said. "We give the ball to the running backs quite a bit, and you can get banged up. I look forward to getting some carries this fall whenever the opportunity arises.
"After sitting out and going through winter and spring and summer, I just want to get out there and play for real."