"I don't think I have the words to express how I'll feel," McClover said. "I have just been waiting on it, dreaming about it. I'm just ready to actually get out there and contribute."
An offensive lineman in his early days at Dillard High in Ft. Lauderdale, the 260-pound McClover didn't emerge onto the scene as a top recruit until the summer camp circuit prior to his senior season. Choosing Auburn over Ohio State and dozens of other schools, McClover came to Auburn last season and was forced onto the scout team after a mix-up in the clearinghouse. The unfortunate situation was a learning experience for McClover and he said that he's a much better player one year removed from last season's opening day.
"Coming out of high school I played a year of defensive end," McClover said. "We basically didn't have a coach so I was just doing what I see on TV. I got to college and got with Coach Price (Terry Price) and I feel like I have a better knowledge of the game. I know a lot of what's going on. It's not just rush the passer and sack the quarterback, there are a lot more things going on. You have to play the run first. I just feel like I'm smarter. I'm a student of the game now and the game has slowed down for me."
McClover is ready for his first game in orange and blue.
Something that McClover and his young teammates had to adjust to was a different attitude on the practice field from college coaches as compared to most high schools. It's no secret that Price has been known to let a player know how he feels from time to time while practicing, but McClover said that the coach does a good job of reinforcing the learning part of things after getting on to a player.
"Coach Price is Coach Price, but after practice he always comes up to me and says ‘you know I just want to make you better'," McClover said. "I'm used to getting hollered at. It doesn't even bother me. I would rather have him hollering at me than not saying anything to me at all. I'm glad he stays on me like that because he wants me to be a better player. He always works with me after practice. He always gives me pointers. I just respect him for that."
Pointers also come from the veterans of the defensive line, Bret Eddins and Jay Ratliff. A pair of players that have played since being freshmen, both Eddins and Ratliff have become strong leaders for the defense despite being mostly quiet players until this season. McClover said that both have made everyone on the defensive line better because of their willingness to teach before, during and after practice.
"That's really helpful," McClover said. "Bret and Jay give a lot of experience. Every time they see me doing something wrong they always come and give me a pointer. They don't ever holler at me in front of everybody. They come to me, pull me to the side, and tell me what to do. I'm thankful for that because you've got to have somebody out there that has been through that before. They've been through the war, been through everything, they always help me out and that's very helpful."
Like most young players, McClover said there is one player that stands out above all others for him and the one he tries to emulate on the field. Despite being a middle linebacker instead of a defensive end, Baltimore Ravens' superstar Ray Lewis is McClover's idol on the field and someone he hopes to play like this season.
"I like his style of play," McClover said. "He doesn't get tired and he's aggressive. He's a big playmaker and I want to pattern myself after him. He has that motor and adrenaline and aggressiveness. That's just the best way to play defense, aggressive."
Since strapping on the pads early in the preseason, McClover's motor has been running wide open on seemingly every play. With the thoughts that a starting job was waiting for him on Sept. 4, McClover said that keeping his emotions under check has been the hardest part of the preseason practices. Now that the wait is nearly over future quarterbacks may want to look out because here comes "The Predator".
"It has been very exciting," McClover said. "Coming in now as a starter I know I'm going to be able to contribute to the game and the season. It's just been an adrenaline rush for me everyday because I know with every day it's getting closer and closer. Once it finally gets here I'm not going to know how to act."