SPARTANBURG — Northwestern wide receiver Rontavious McClure dragging tacklers after a short pass wasnt an uncommon sight this year at Trojans football games. McClure, 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, is a heck of a basketball player, too, rated by the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association last month as one of the best seniors in the state.
But it is McClures football physicality that attracted Shrine Bowl coaches and earned him a spot on the team thats preparing this week to play the North Carolina squad at 1 p.m. Saturday in Spartanburg.
Thats the reason we took him, South Carolina Shrine Bowl receivers coach Wade Cooper said Thursday. Theres a lot of big receivers out there, but I liked how physical he was when he caught the ball, how well he blocked. Hes a tough guy to tackle.
McClure is just one component of a very talented and diverse receiving corps that Cooper cant wait to unleash on the Tar Heels team. North Carolinas defensive backs include Brian Walker and Korin Wiggins, who are North Carolina commits, Jack Tocho, who is headed to N.C. State, and Dequaivs Mann, a Duke commitment.
Yeah, weve heard all about their backs and Im sure theyre very, very talented, said Cooper.
I think we have a very special group of receivers, and theyre probably the strength of our team. Good size, great speed, theyre great kids, very coachable, and have just done a great job for us.
Wiggins, at 6-1 and 190, is the biggest North Carolina defensive back.
Were bigger, McClure said Tuesday after practice at Spartanburg High. I think were just gonna beat em up physically, take the game to them in a physical manner.
S.C. receiver Tramel Terry, the No. 1 recruit in the state according to most recruiting services, gets much of the ink. The Goose Creek senior was named the states Mr. Football last week, and he will suit up next year for the Georgia Bulldogs. A 5-10 speedster, Terry is a threat in the passing game, but he also is a strong runner out of the backfield and will be targeted by the defense on every play Saturday. Terry has made an impression on almost everyone who has seen him this week, McClure included: I like the way he plays; hes got an ongoing motor that never stops.
The Sandlappers also have another tall receiver to pair with McClure in Lake Marion senior Mike Williams, a Clemson recruit. Williams is 6-4, 210 pounds and chose the Tigers over offers from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and a host of other schools.
I call him Lanky, McClure said, grinning widely.
He catches everything you throw at him. Thats gonna be kind of tough for North Carolina to guard.
Williams caught 60 passes for 1,395 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and, when teamed with McClure, gives South Carolina twin towers in the passing game.
I think we definitely have a size advantage over the North Carolina squad in that regard, said Cooper. But these guys are athletic, too. They can go up and get the ball; they run great routes the deep routes and the underneath stuff, too.
McClure snagged 86 passes this season for the Trojans, racking up 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was a nice progression from last seasons 51 catches, 499 yards and four touchdowns, and showed his ability to be a pass-catcher who also makes plays in the open field, not solely a jump-ball grabber in the red zone.
At times he looked like an agitated bear rumbling toward the end zone, shirking ant-sized tacklers off his back every step.
Cooper saw that on film when helping pick the S.C. squad.
McClure is a talented receiver that can do a lot of stuff underneath, too, said Cooper, but the thing I like about him is how physical he is. He can be a good blocker for us as well and he catches the underneath stuff and is hard to tackle.
It has been an interesting experience so far for McClure, who admitted he was a bit uneasy heading into the week.
I was kind of skeptical of coming down here because it was gonna be my first look to college life. But I like it though, he added.
McClure has the unique luxury of being recruited in both basketball and football. It has given him a difficult decision to make, but one he has decided to punt down the road until spring. McClure has football offers from Appalachian State and Marshall, but a number of schools are interested, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson.
He hopes that at the very least this week some offers manifest from the schools that so far only have shown interest. As for whether to play football or basketball at the next level, McClure didnt expect any ground-quaking revelations, any sudden greater love of the football field, while at the Shrine Bowl.
Still, the week has, as he said, showed me where I stand.
Anytime you can go out against elite competition and have success, it will really let him know, Hey, I can compete in both sports, Cooper said.
Its a big confidence booster that will let him know I can compete on that level.
Bret McCormick 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T