Villanova football coach Andy Talley has a long checklist of qualities he looks for in a recruit.
With the signing Archbishop Wood running back Jarrett McClenton, he seems to have knocked out a whole bunch of them.
“He’s one of the best skill athletes in the east, not just in Pennsylvania,’ said Talley, who is entering his 31st year as the Villanova head football coach. “He can run, he can catch and he can return.’
Those features have been on display in a major way over the last two years for fans and coaches in Southeastern Pennsylvania, as McClenton’s has sprinted his way to quite the football resume. A two-time First Team All-State honoree, McClenton has Philadelphia Catholic League records for single season total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. A Big 33 selection this year, he’s also a two-time state champion.
In the two Class AAA state title games, McClenton rushed for a combined 471 yards on 66 total carries, for an average of 7.1 yards per carry. He’s the all-time leading rusher at Archbishop Wood.
He said those games were the highlights of his high school career, and is now hoping that the same success translates to the college game.
“I know it’ll be different,’ McClenton said. “They run the spread and it’s a little bit more up-tempo. But I think it’ll be a good fit for me so I’m going to learn the system and see what we can do.’
On the field, McClenton will be asked to do a bit less than he did at the high school level. At Wood, he started at both running back and safety while also returning punts and kickoffs. He expects to focus solely on offense and special teams as a Wildcat, giving him a bit of a break he’s not quite used to.
“We think he can do a lot of things for us,’ Talley said. “He has game-breaking speed.’
McClenton said he’s had college football on his mind as a goal of his for years. When it came to choose the perfect school for him, Villanova seemed to fit. The school is close by — he said his parents will go to most home games — the academics are strong — he’s interested in majoring in business — and, perhaps most of all, he connected with the coaches and buys into the program.
“The coaches are great guys,’ he said. “Coach Talley, everyone else who I’ve met and dealt with, they’ve been together for a long time. Other places you might see coaches changing every two years. It’s not like that [at Villanova].’
While the fit feels strong in his eyes, it’s equally strong — if not stronger — to Talley.
“He’s been extremely productive as a player,’ Talley said. “That’s one of the biggest things that I look for.’
From a recruiting standpoint, Talley said he feels even more comfortable with McClenton because of the proximity. Archbishop Wood is just a 20-mile drive from the Villanova campus, giving Talley and his staff ample opportunities to see him play.
“It’s always helpful when recruiting a local player,’ Talley said. “You can see them, you can watch them on the field, and you can also hear what other people have to say about him. You get to know about them as a person and as a student. And everything we’ve heard and learned about Jarrett is that he’s a guy who can take care of business.’
Recently, Villanova has had a strong program in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. The Wildcats advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last year and won the 2009 FCS National Championship.
McClenton said he’ll enroll in summer classes and will be on campus in June.
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