Shrine bowl

Shrine Bowl could help firm up future for Northwestern’s McClure

Northwestern star hopes recruit interest offers insight into college decision

bmccormick@heraldonline.comDecember 14, 2012 

  • Shrine Bowl

    When: 1 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Gibbs Stadium, Wofford College, Spartanburg

    Tickets: $15. Available in advance at

— Northwestern wide receiver Rontavious McClure dragging tacklers after a short pass wasn’t 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 McClure’s football physicality that attracted Shrine Bowl coaches and earned him a spot on the team that’s preparing this week to play the North Carolina squad at 1 p.m. Saturday in Spartanburg.

“That’s the reason we took him,” South Carolina Shrine Bowl receivers coach Wade Cooper said Thursday. “There’s a lot of big receivers out there, but I liked how physical he was when he caught the ball, how well he blocked. He’s a tough guy to tackle.”

McClure is just one component of a very talented and diverse receiving corps that Cooper can’t wait to unleash on the Tar Heels team. North Carolina’s 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, we’ve heard all about their backs and I’m sure they’re very, very talented,” said Cooper.

“I think we have a very special group of receivers, and they’re probably the strength of our team. Good size, great speed, they’re 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.

“We’re bigger,” McClure said Tuesday after practice at Spartanburg High. “I think we’re 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 state’s 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; he’s 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. That’s 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 season’s 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 didn’t 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.

“It’s a big confidence booster that will let him know ‘I can compete on that level.’ ”

Bret McCormick 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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