Former Clemson wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud could have benefited by returning to school for his senior season.
“I prayed about it,” McCloud said Thursday. “I woke up one morning and said it was time to go.”
There’s no turning back now.
McCloud went to the NFL scouting combine and performed for NFL scouts at Clemson’s Pro Day. He dazzled as he went through wide receiver and defensive back drills. When he was finished with that, he went outside and caught punts for about 40 scouts, including a representative from the Falcons.
“He did everything and a little bit more of what they needed him to do today,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
McCloud, from Tampa, was a running back coming out of high school. He was moved to wide receiver at Clemson and went on to catch 127 passes for 1,226 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he also played some defensive back for the Tigers.
“I think he was a very big bright spot today,” Swinney said. “He really helped himself. He was outstanding.
“He was very good in all areas. He ran great. He was too heavy at the combine. He tried to run at 190, and he didn’t play at 190. He ran great today and did all of the work.
“He has unbelievable ball skills, showed very good route running. Showed some good stuff in the slot. He caught some punts and then also did some (defensive back) work with him. He really shined in every area.”
McCloud has been training in Florida with former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
“I’ve been learning so much,” McCloud said. “He’s been passing along his knowledge and showing me different techniques every day.”
McCloud sensed that he had a good day.
“I’ve been working since Jan. 9 after we played Bama, so I wanted to showcase that,” McCloud said. “I came here and showed them that I could run. I can gain weight, but I have to do it the proper way.”
Former Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain is the school’s top prospect. He’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of recent Clemson first-round picks Mike Williams (2017), Sammy Watkins (2014) and De’Andre Hopkins (2013).
He caught 130 passes for 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“That’s one of things that I was telling the scouts is that Deon and Ray Ray have only played wide receiver for two and a half years,” Swinney said. “They didn’t spend four years in high school playing wide receiver. Ray-Ray played running back in high school, and he played some defense, too. Deon played quarterback. So, these are guys who have only played the position two-and-a-half years. The best football for them is still in front of them.”
Cain is a projected second- or third-round pick.
“Deon has the foundation that he needs now to become an elite, great receiver,” Swinney said. “I wish I could have kind of finished the race with him, but he was ready to go. I definitely think he’ll be a better pro.”
The Tigers had 17 players work out, but only seven -- and no projected first-rounders – made NFLDraftScout.com’s top-500 player list.
“I was out here to watch these guys compete,” Swinney said. “Some of these guys are living the dream of having a Pro Day. It’s a big hurdle for them. …I’m proud of them. It was a good group. Not a big group. Next year, we might have to have Pro Week.”
Cain had a poor day tracking the ball on deep passes and dropped two deep passes.
Clemson’s other NFL prospects are guard Taylor Hearn (fourth round/fifth round), linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (fifth/sixth), defensive back Van Smith (seventh/free agent), offensive guard Tyrone Crowder (seventh/free agent) and center Justin Falcinelli (free agent).
It was McCloud who helped himself the most.
“Ray-Ray was very unpolished as a receiver,” Swinney said. “He’s become a good route runner. He understands things and has a very smart football I.Q. That’s how he was able to go play defense.