TAMPA — Ray Ray McCloud is still waiting for his first offer.
But it’s offseasons like the one he is having that pretty much tell you he won’t be waiting long.
McCloud (5-10, 187) was recently named the offensive MVP at a Rivals Underclassman Camp, which he entered as a relative unknown. For those who follow high school football, that’s not so surprising. Last fall, the Sickles sophomore rushed for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But he has expanded his portfolio this spring by showing on the 7-on-7 circuit he’s a much better defensive back than most thought.
While he played a little at defensive back in 2012, his value as the Gryphons’ best offensive weapon mandated he play it as little as possible.
But this spring, he’s been honing his cover skills.
“Trying to show colleges I can play more than one position,’’ McCloud said.
To that end, McCloud was recruited to play defense for the Unsigned Preps 7-on-7 team.
Unsigned Preps CEO Ricky Sailor, a former Leto and Texas Tech defensive back, has known McCloud since he was a kid, and knew he had the skills to make an impact on defense, and raise his recruiting profile.
And he has.
“I told his dad I wanted to bring him over as a corner,’’ Sailor said. “He has some stuff you just can’t coach, and I knew he would flourish. I knew that because the one thing about Ray is, he wants to be good.”
Working out with Sailor and former Robinson and current Kansas City Chief Javier Arenas, McCloud has opened some eyes.
“Yes, sir, I came out of nowhere,’’ said McCloud. “I hear it all the time. This is the first time I’ve played defensive back full time. I think people are surprised.’’
Sailor says the offers will definitely come for McCloud, who is still early in the recruiting process. “There’s a ton of interest in him,’’ Sailor said, as schools like Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa have inquired.
As for McCloud, he’s trying not to sweat it.
“I am, and I’m not,’’ he said. “I still have two years. But that two years can go fast.”
Five to watch
These guys are getting nibbles, but soon, look for schools of colleges to latch on:
1. Jonathon Thomas, Nature Coast: Thomas (6-2, 185) is a nice-looking wide receiver for the Sharks. Tall, athletic, very good leaper with early offers from Massachusetts and Toledo just the start.
2. Caanan Brown, Clearwater Central Catholic: Great size (6-3, 230) and can play TE, DE or LB. Nine sacks last season, 15 hurries and no offers yet, but coaches think he will be the next player to blow up in Pinellas County.
3. Derrick Ingram, Jefferson: A 6-2, 190-pound potential-filled wide receiver; like McCloud, Ingram has been hard at work this spring refining his cover skills. Massachusetts has offered, more will come.
4. Jeremiah Jackson, Hernando: We’re still bullish on Jackson, a 6-1, 190-pounder. Purdue has offered, but colleges stopping off to see Thomas and Rohan Blackwood at Nature Coast would be smart to swing by Hernando.
5. Giovanni Negron, Countryside: We tweeted about this 6-4, 275-pound hulk back in January after we saw his highlight video. Wow, it’s impressive. Once college coaches see him with their own eyes, though, he should fit right in with an immensely strong group of OL recruits in the 2014 class.
Spotlight on ...
Tampa Catholic’s T.J. Harrell, the all-around 6-1, 210-pound Crusader who has been offered by more than two dozen colleges looking at him as a running back (FSU and Georgia), linebacker (UCLA), wide receiver (Cincinnati and West Virginia) and safety (Michigan State), to name a few.
First offer: UCLA
Offer that excited you the most: Michigan State, because I had a cousin that went there that everybody talks about (Jeremy Ware, who played for the Oakland Raiders in 2010). I was so excited because I wanted to let him know, and he was happy about it.
Offer you’d most like to receive: There isn’t really one.
Visit you are most looking forward to: Kentucky. I know there’s a lot of people up there that I have come to know (because of Twitter) so I want to see what that’s all about. A lot of people from there follow me on Twitter. #BBN, for Big Blue Nation. I think I picked up like 150 followers from them.
Expectations this spring: To really get my team better so we can make a state championship run. It starts in the spring.
Unsigned Preps has been invited to the IMG Regionals in Bradenton on April 20-21, and if tourney officials want to generate some buzz, they should consider matching them up against Team Tampa in pool play.
Team Tampa, the defending national champion, is loaded with well-known recruits like East Lake’s duo of Artavis Scott and George Campbell, and top Tampa Bay quarterback Chase Litton of Wharton. They got a bye into the regionals and haven’t played in any tournaments so far (Unsigned Preps has played in two), though team organizers did set up a scrimmage a few weeks back between the championship team alumni and this year’s group.
A game between the two would feature probably 80 percent of the top skills position recruits in Tampa Bay, and would be can’t-miss.
QBs on deck
The Kaleo Quarterback Challenge, hosted by local quarterback coach and former Maryland and Tampa Bay Storm standout John Kaleo, has been scheduled for April 28 at Skyway Park in Tampa.
The event, which already has 55 quarterbacks from the area signed up, will pit quarterbacks from all four classes, including rising freshmen, in a challenge focusing on long ball, accuracy and throwing on the run before two finalists are chosen from each class to decide the Top Gun winner.
The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. For more information, visit kaleoqbacademy.com.