When the Syracuse Post-Standard did a story in November about SU’s hard-hitting safety Shamarko Thomas, they illustrated it with this photo of him leveling Bearcats wide receiver Anthony McClung.
What wasn’t mentioned in the caption is that McClung made the catch for a Cincinnati first down.
A week later, Temple’s Vaughn Carraway hit McClung so hard that the school’s media relations department immediately sent out the following Tweet:
Vaughn Carraway just leveled Anthony McClung on that last reception, but was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Bearcats @ the Owls 20.
— Owlsports_com (@Owlsports_com) November 10, 2012
Allow me to point out that McClung held on to the ball for a 29-yard gain with a 15-yard penalty tacked on.
I have no idea if UC’s new head coach Tommy Tuberville has seen video of either of those receptions, but he’s watched enough of McClung at practice to know that the Bearcats wide receiver doesn’t have “alligator arms.”
“He’ll catch the ball across the middle,” said Tuberville. “That’s what really separates a good receiver.”
“When the ball is in the air, I feel that it’s mine,” said McClung. “I can’t control what happens after that. All I try to do is look the ball in and make the catch for my team.”
Unlike Tuberville, McClung has definitely seen the video of his gutsy catches after some gruesome collisions.
“Sometimes you get goose bumps and say, ‘Wow that really happened,’ ” McClung told me. “But during the game, you have so much adrenaline going that you don’t really feel it.”
After having 49 catches for 683 yards and 6 touchdowns as a sophomore, McClung battled a series of injuries last season and saw his numbers drop to 34 catches for 539 yards and 2 TDs. To his credit, Anthony played with pain and appeared in 12 of 13 games.
“I pulled my quad, hurt my groin, my knee – there were a lot of different things,” said McClung. “But I’m a tough guy. I always want to play for my team.”
Now the senior-to-be is healthy again and it shows. In Cincinnati’s first scrimmage this spring, McClung finished with 4 catches for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns, and in Saturday’s second scrimmage held at Paul Brown Stadium, Anthony led all receivers with 7 grabs for 92 yards.
“He’s deceptive,” said Tuberville. “He’s one of those guys that doesn’t show up, doesn’t show up, and then all of a sudden makes big plays.
“I’ve been very impressed with him. He works hard and never says anything.”
McClung might not say much to his new head coach, but he’s very talkative to the less-experienced receivers that Cincinnati will be counting on this season.
“He’s been a great leader in the room,” said receivers coach Blake Rolan. “The kids listen to him and that makes my job easier. They’ve been trained well in the past and won a lot of games and he understands what it takes.”
“They ask me a lot of questions,” said McClung. “When I was younger I used to look up to great receivers like Armon Binns, D.J. Woods, Vidal Hazelton, and Kenbrell Thompkins. They were leaders to me and now I have to fill that role and be the leader to the younger guys.”
“He’s a quick learner,” said Rolan. “He studies the game and it means a lot to him.”
Following the departures of Thompkins and tight end Travis Kelce, McClung appears likely to be Cincinnati’s number one receiver in 2013.
“I trust him to get open, and he trusts me to get him the ball,” said quarterback Brendon Kay. “The more reps we get together, the better we’ll be as a duo.”
“I have a great opportunity with two great quarterbacks,” said McClung. “Hopefully we’ll win a lot of games. But even if I’m not the number one guy, I want to play a role and make plays when my number is called. The bottom line is that we want to win the league title outright this year.”
Well-stated from a guy who will go over the middle to get to the top.
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