Competition fueling Ray-Ray McCloud's improved play
|Wednesday, August 10, 2016, 7:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Clemson’s wide receiver group is deep and it’s talented and every player wants to earn snaps. That kind of competition is why every day is nut cutting day for Jeff Scott’s group.
Sophomore receiver Ray-Ray McCloud spoke with the media following Tuesday’s practice at Jervey Meadows, and he admitted that with so much talent on campus at the wide receiver spot the competition for playing time is fierce.
Take a day off, and you could be the one “cut.”
“Every day is a scrimmage for us. Like coach says, every day is nut cutting day,” McCloud said. “You have to come out every day like you could be cut. We have so many receivers and so much talent; every day is really a grind for us.
“We all push each other to be great. I have been watching Mike (Williams) because of the way he goes after the ball, and that's one thing I feel like I need to work on a lot more. Making plays on those 50-50 balls, he makes those most of the time. Honestly, I can't really answer that question. Our room is so good, and the second group is as good as the first group and the third group is going to be there. They have the book stuff to get down but athletically they are right there. That is what makes the offense so dynamic.”
McCloud played significant snaps as a true freshman last season and wound up sixth on the team with 29 receptions for 251 yards and a touchdown in 12 games (one start). He also had seven carries for 48 yards, as well as seven kickoff returns for 223 yards and a 31.9 average per return.
However, head coach Dabo Swinney wanted more out of the Florida speedster and told the media Monday that he’s been impressed with McCloud through the first week of camp.
Wide receivers coach Jeff Scott echoed those sentiments Tuesday.
“I’ve seen a big change in Ray-Ray. He’s one of those guys I’ve been most pleased with,” Scott said. “He was a talented guy as a freshman but had a lot to learn about the position. He has to be a technician out there playing. He gets a lot of press coverage out there at the 2-man, so he has to learn his depths and releases and all of the little details. This year he has worked on that and he’s a technician. He’s a lot more mature than last year and I’ve seen a big difference in him. I am really excited about Ray-Ray for this fall.”
McCloud said he appreciates what the coaches are saying, but attributes his success to finally being healthy after missing three games at the end of last season with a sprained knee.
“I just come out here every day and work hard. I work like it's my last day. My body feels like it is 100 percent and I can do what I want and what my body allows me to. I am just coming out there and having fun,” McCloud said. “Last year, I feel like I was limited a lot. More during the season rather than the spring, because my game is cutting and running and being explosive. That held me back from doing a lot of those things I wanted to do.”
There are other things he has worked on – weight training, blocking and getting faster.
“It’s about knowledge and studying the game more. I have worked on my blocking since I was a freshman,” he said. “My explosiveness is night and day from last year. I have had to work it and train after workouts. I've had my track coach from back home send me some stuff, and I've taken the weight room a lot more serious.”
McCloud thinks he can also contribute in the return game, whether on kickoff return or punt return.
“Of course, I know I can. A lot of the times when I am being held after practice, that's what I am doing,” he said. “We are working on a lot of different stuff. I am feeling more comfortable (fielding punts). That was more just getting used to the speed of the game. It felt slow to me, but it was different than high school. The game is a lot slower to me, now. It's getting a lot easier, and I showcased some of that in the spring.”