Could Clayton Northmont's Clay Belton be the next Bearcat quarterback? Obviously, Cincinnati head coach Mark Dantonio hopes so. Belton has to be at or near the top of UC's 2007 recruiting wish list since Coach Dantonio himself has assumed the point position in Clay's recruitment. On paper and on the field, this outgoing junior looks to have all the attributes necessary to have success in college both on and off the field.
Clay will have no trouble seeing over collegiate offensive lines with his recently measured 6' 6 1/4" frame. He also feels he brings a number of other assets to the quarterback position. "My #1 strength has to be my ability to read defenses. Also, I stay calm in the pocket. After the first read, I don't just bail out of the pocket and run. I'm able to check down and look at my other options. My last strength would have to be my arm strength. I have a strong arm."
When asked about what in his game needed work, Clay hedged slightly, "The big thing would probably be my open field speed, but I'd have to say in the pocket my foot quickness is very good at getting away from pressure. My forty time is 4.9, but that can always get better."
In an age of athletic, multiple threat college quarterbacks, Clay thinks his style is more of a pocket passer. "Definitely, I'll run when needed, but I think of myself as more of a Peyton Manning type."
In choosing a school, Clay has a list of criteria that need to be met. "In my house, education is the #1 thing so I'm looking to major in some type of engineering. When I talked to Coach (Dantonio), he said that Cincinnati has a top engineering program. That's a plus. Another thing is the atmosphere and environment in the coaching staff. I want to get to meet the staff and become close to them and get to understand their program. That's a must. Finally, it has to be playing time. I want to know where I'll be on the depth chart."
Education is a priority in the Belton household, but the possibility of playing in the NFL is also a goal for this mature Northmont signal caller. "That is definitely a major goal, but if I'm not fortunate enough to be able to play in the NFL, I want to come away from college with a degree and be able to get a top job." Clay was well aware of Cincinnati's excellent track record in graduating its football players and would fit in nicely at UC with his 3.65 GPA and National Honor Society membership.
According to Clay, only Cincinnati and Bowling Green have made offers so he was asked who he'd like to see enter the mix for his services. After a long pause, he responded, "I'm not really waiting for a certain school. When it comes down to it, I'm not trying to go too far away. I'd like to stay close to home. I'm really more concerned about engineering and playing time. I plan to look at my offers and see who I fall in love with first."
Cincinnati's early offer may have helped to put the Bearcats in an advantageous position of getting Clay on campus this summer to attend its camp. Clay gave his thought process on what camps he‘d attend. "It's going to be based on the level of interest of the schools. I haven't really narrowed them down yet, but with Cincinnati already offering, they're definitely of big interest."
Like most throwing quarterbacks, Clay wants to play in an offensive system that's tailored to his skills. "Here at my high school, it's 90% pass, and we run nothing but shotgun and spread offense-wide open. That's going to be a key. I want to be able to help my team win and showcase my talent. One of my major abilities is throwing the football so I want to go to an offense that allows me to do that." So is a shotgun offense a requirement? "I've run nothing but shotgun so I'm comfortable with it, but if I need to get under the center to throw the football, I'll do it." Most schools are looking to have a balanced offense so is Clay looking for a college offense that throws the ball 90% of the time? "I'd prefer throwing the ball 60%-70% of the time, but if the coaching staff wants to throw the ball 50%, and they can help me get to the next level, I have no problem with that."
Despite playing football for only his fifth season, Belton threw for approximately 2,800 yards last season with a 3/1 touchdown to interception ratio (30 touchdowns to 10 interceptions). Presently, Clay's involved with the Northmont basketball squad (16-5) in the state tournament, but he considers himself to be more of a grunt under the glass than a gunslinger on the court. "Definitely. That's what I'm about. But I have been a starter since my sophomore year and average about 9 rebounds and 7 points a game."
Clay Belton is one of the top players to watch in Southwest Ohio for the upcoming season. I've had the chance to see Clay and hear about Clay for a couple of years now from Northmont Head Football Coach Lance Schneider. Schneider, along with his father, longtime offensive guru Mike Schneider, are two of the best when it comes to working with and building quarterbacks in their fast paced offense.
Just as Clay talked about in Tim's interview, Northmont likes to throw the football around and that helps account for the large numbers put up in their system. But make no mistake. Clay Belton has the physical tools needed to play at the next level and is still learning the game.
When you breakdown Clay you very quickly see you have a prospect with the size college coaches look for. What you also get is a player who understands the passing game more then any other high school quarterback you may come across. The Schneider's offense is built with a player like Clay in mind. He will get to show his wares and post very good stats just being in this style of offense, but that's not all Clay brings to the table. Clay has above average arm strength and is still growing. But the time he reaches the college level, he should be very well set to earn playing time in his second or third year in a program.
Clay has only started one season at this time. While I don't feel it's a big burden, he's still a work in progress in some areas. The game I saw him play in this past season showed him having problems on this night with pressure in his face. While he didn't back down, it did hamper his game. But while I list this as a con, it's a very small one when you keep in mind he was in his first season as a starter and the team he was playing against went 11-2 on the season.
With early offers in hand, Clay Belton will have a chance to be considered one of the top quarterback prospects in Ohio and the Midwest for the Class of 2007. Camps, combines and any other area he picks to show his talent may help him reach another level. I look for Clay to have an even bigger season during his senior year. He's now seen the fire and faced it at a high level.
Clay guided his team to an 8-3 overall mark in 2005. With victories over Chaminade-Julienne, LaSalle and Troy. Clay saw some very big victories along with some very hard defeats with losses against Wayne and two losses to Centerville. Including one, that was a heartbreaker in the first round of the playoffs 35-33.
Bearcat Insider will continue to follow Clay's recruitment.