Pinecrest Academy quarterback Ryan McCarthy went to a football camp at The Citadel last Friday as a linebacker. He’d just about given up on getting recruited to play his favorite position in college. Who wants triple-option quarterbacks like him besides Georgia Tech, he figured?
Well, The Citadel does, it turns out.
The Bulldogs believed in McCarthy’s athletic ability and decision-making acumen enough to offer him a scholarship, and the Paladins’ rising senior verbally committed Monday.
“It’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” McCarthy said. “I was a little stressed out about [the recruiting process] at first, but I knew with my coach, my friends and family that I’d be OK.”
McCarthy would join one of the top Division I Football Championship Subdivision programs in the country. The Citadel went 9-4 last year, won the Southern Conference championship and reached the FCS playoffs behind a triple-option offense that set a NCAA record for rushing yards in a season.
Which makes McCarthy well-suited for the Bulldogs. He’s run the same offense at Pinecrest since becoming a starter midway through his freshman season with remarkable results. Last season he rushed for a school-record 1,284 yards on 168 carries with 22 touchdowns to lead Pinecrest to its first region title and state quarterfinals appearance since joining the GHSA.
But McCarthy’s recruitment has been a trial of passion against pragmatism. McCarthy says he loves playing quarterback, that he feels like a quarterback. Indeed, McCarthy said he walked into The Citadel’s camp Thursday, went to sign in as a participant and staff members looked at him and asked, ‘Are you a quarterback?’
McCarthy said no and signed in as a linebacker. All his offensive records at Pinecrest hadn’t been enough for colleges up to that point to overcome the label as a “triple-option quarterback.” Coaches saw his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and athleticism and instead envisioned a linebacker or wide receiver, even tight end. So that’s where McCarthy started off at The Citadel’s camp.
But earlier in the day, on a tour of the campus with Bulldogs coaches, McCarthy said new head coach Brent Thompson told him to spend time at quarterback. So after some reps at linebacker, McCarthy joined the quarterback group, showing off his explosiveness on runs and intellect in making reads in the triple-option.
After the camp, McCarthy said Thompson talked with Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter, then approached McCarthy and officially made a scholarship offer.
McCarthy didn’t need long to decide. He’d been to the school before, seen the coastal campus, knew about its military background.
“I had it in my mind the whole day that if the coached offered me I’d most likely commit, because I loved it,” McCarthy said. “I loved just the atmosphere there. It’s obviously a little different from a normal college, and I kind of liked that. The structure there seems great to me. And the people there really made me feel at home. I didn’t feel treated like a number. When I got there, I felt treated like I was a person and they wanted me there. And that was even before the camp.”
Instead of waiting another season to see if a college wanted him as a linebacker, McCarthy gets to go to a school he loves to play the position he loves.