As the Bearcats prepare for their first Big East league game this season, Anthony McClung might be more excited than most in facing the Louisville Cardinals. You see, the Pike High School (IN) standout was once listed as a Louisville commit, but he won’t be the only 2010 recruit to change allegiance in this Keg of Nails rivalry.
When Charlie Strong and Butch Jones were hired at their respective Big East schools in mid-December of 2009, they both understood the importance of recruiting. In fact, Strong admitted on national signing day in 2010 that upon getting the U of L job, he immediately asked for a list of Cincinnati’s committed players and began recruiting them. His aggressive strategy worked as he eventually signed Preston Brown from Northwest High School and Dominique Brown from Winton Woods. Both local stars had been committed to the Bearcats for months.
The Bearcats got some measure of revenge when Anthony McClung switched his commitment from Louisville to Cincinnati, but the Cards played a major role in McClung’s flip. The UC sophomore recounted the events from almost three years ago.
“As soon as I got (academically) eligible, Louisville offered me,” said McClung. “They wanted me to take a visit and I did. My parents took me down there, and we liked it. I thought they were a good fit for me, and they wanted me to commit (on the trip) so I committed.”
But the story doesn’t stop there. Cincinnati had been recruiting McClung for some time, and when word got to Coach Jones and his staff that McClung appeared to have his academics in order, the Bearcats also extended an offer.
“Cincinnati offered me the following week, and they had been with me since my sophomore and junior years,” said McClung. “I felt the love from them because they had been waiting for me to get the grades, but Louisville didn’t want me to visit Cincinnati, but I did anyway. I felt if Louisville didn’t want me to visit Cincinnati, they didn’t want me as bad as Cincinnati.”
At this point, Louisville changed the terms of their deal with McClung.
“I was actually on my way back home from Cincinnati when I got a call from I think their offensive coordinator telling they wanted to change my position from receiver to DB. My parents said, ‘If they want to try you at DB, they have to also try you at receiver.’ I called Louisville back and told them I was sticking with my commitment to them.”
But the story obviously didn’t end there as McClung eventually decided his best option was to become a Bearcat.
“Louisville called me a day or two later saying they wanted to grayshirt me (delay enrollment-skipping the 2010 season). That’s when I changed my mind and committed to Cincinnati. I just talked to a player a couple weeks ago that said they did the same thing to him.”
McClung says he’s happy with his decision but admits there is still some unsettled business.
“Everything happens for a reason, but I feel I have something to prove. Last year I played in that game, but I was really limited with turf toe and had only one catch for five yards.”
The true sophomore will enter Saturday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium as Cincinnati’s top receiver with 23 catches for 281 yards in five games. He caught 22 balls in ten games last year for 217 yards.
Although the Bearcats are obviously happy with McClung, it’s wouldn’t be fair to evaluate this game of recruiting musical chairs without also looking at the performances of Preston Brown and Dominique Brown (no relation).
As a starting linebacker this year, Preston Brown is second on the Cardinals’ squad with 32 tackles. Playing mostly special teams as a freshman, Brown had 10 stops in thirteen games. Dominique Brown’s days as a quarterback appear to be over as he was inserted as Louisville starting running back last week after starting as a receiver against Marshall. For the season, Brown has 170 rushing yards on 43 carries (4.0 yard average). He also has 4 catches for 39 yards.
Of course, the most important statistic is the final score, and after winning the game last year (35-27), the Bearcats will be hoping to give McClung a 2-0 lead on Saturday afternoon.