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Venables says McCloud turns up the heat at corner

Things have come full circle for Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud. Well, sort of.

When he was in high school, the former five-star recruit from Tampa, Fla., was seen as a cornerback prospect by many schools. McCloud was recruited and offered by Clemson as a cornerback, but of course spent the first two years of his career at wide receiver.

Now, McCloud is working at cornerback again on a part-time basis in fall camp.

McCloud said he had a conversation with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney over the offseason about potentially playing some corner.

“I was like if you need help on defense, if you ever need me, you can use me on defense and just use me at practice to learn the system,” McCloud recalled after Clemson’s practice on Tuesday.

McCloud spent part of the first few days of fall camp working with the cornerbacks, in part because he was limited with a wrist injury he sustained in a skateboarding accident over the summer. He had a cast on his hand that prevented him from catching the football, so he worked with the corners when he was unable to work with the receivers.

On Monday, McCloud was cleared for full participation in practice and saw time at both receiver and corner. He worked mostly with the receivers on Tuesday, however, as receivers Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers both did not practice due to minor injuries.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said McCloud has looked like a natural at cornerback thus far.

“It’s not asking him to learn a new language,” Venables said. “He’s very natural there and comfortable, instinctive, tough, physical, competitive.”

Venables said McCloud seeing action at cornerback during the season is a possibility, and suggested that if or how much he plays there depends on how he does and how the other corners do, as well.

“You want to utilize your players on your team,” Venables said. “So, whether that’s a situational thing or that’s an all-time thing — if he is better than anybody we got. On the other side, if there’s a handful of you that are all really, really good, then it just makes sense…

“But he’s got a good skillset, and it’s something that I think he’s excited about. He’s got a lot of natural knowledge, understanding of the game, speed, quickness, physicality out there.”

Regardless, by the sound of it, McCloud is putting a little pressure on Clemson’s other corners with his play.

“He looks good, and that creates more competition and turns up the heat on guys,” Venables said. “It makes everybody better — don’t be stubbing your toe, don’t be pulling a hammy. It just gives you good, competitive depth. Through a couple days, he definitely has got a great skillset and a lot of natural ability to do it.”

McCloud hasn’t had trouble re-acclimating to corner, for the most part.

He did say the speed of the game defensively has taken some getting used to after playing on the other side of the ball as a freshman and sophomore.

“On defense, it’s a little fast because you’re reacting to the offense,” he said.

McCloud is enjoying his new situation, but made it known that his primary position is still on offense.

“I play wide receiver. That’s what I play,” he said. “We don’t need help on defense, but Coach Swinney insists that I should learn some defense just in case. You never know what can happen.”

 

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