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Recruiting: Boca Ciega's Elijah McClendon switching to safety to attract attention

Elijah McClendon is an all-county linebacker, but this spring he is spending all his time hoping to prove that's not all he is.

The Boca Ciega rising senior has been showing up at camps and combines as a safety, a transition he hopes leads to his first scholarship offer.

"Well, I'm like an undersized linebacker, but I can cover like a safety," said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound McClendon. "We (he and new Pirates coach Antez Brinson) talked about it and thought it out, and decided it's best for me since this is what I'll probably play in college."

Now the task is getting colleges to agree.

For McClendon, the on-field transition should be an easy one.

He was always fast for a linebacker and good in coverage, so the move is natural.

And he likes to hit.

"I'm already like a hard-hitting safety; I like to punish people when they come across the middle. You got to have that mentality to play that position."

McClendon, who has a 2.8 grade-point average and hopes to become fully qualified before the end of football season, said he has been working hard on coverage, more of the off-man stuff than man-to-man, which he believes he has a good handle on.

At last week's Elite Scouting Services camp at Armwood, he was solid in the one-on-one drills, covering Berkeley Prep standout Nelson Agholor and Plant City receiver LaMarlin Wiggins.

At the camp, McClendon said recruitniks from Scout, Rivals, 247sports and ESPN talked to him.

He has had lots of contact with the staff at USF and said Middle Tennessee State has also shown some interest while a number of other schools have sent him mail.

"I'm working on getting my name out there," he said.

Timed in 4.7-4.8-second range in the 40-yard dash, and one of the strongest competitors at the ESS camp with 21 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press, McClendon hopes he can continue burnishing his credentials as a safety.

He was supposed to make the move to safety last season, but the Pirates needed him at linebacker, so those plans were scrapped.

That has left him without any video of him at the position he anticipates playing at the next level. So he has put special emphasis on his efforts this spring.

"I feel like I've been coming along, but there's a lot of work to do," McClendon said. "I think going against LaMarlin and guys like Nelson Agholor is good. I think I did good against them.

"There's pressure because I got to be perfect. Those guys are already there, they're already getting offers. I have no room for error."

McClendon, who had 85 tackles, two interceptions and nine sacks last season, is attending the Nike training camp today in Tallahassee with teammate Denzel Conyers.

Then he hopes to show prospective colleges what he can do with pads on when spring football starts May 2.

"My offseason has been really intense," he said. "I've been working out five days a week. I'm in the weight room; I'm running track.

"I feel like something good is going to happen pretty soon, I just got to be patient. Then come springtime, I have to show the colleges that I can play the position."

Recruiting: Boca Ciega's Elijah McClendon switching to safety to attract attention 04/16/11 [Last modified: Sunday, April 17, 2011 12:00am]

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