Although his high school football games take place ten-plus hours away, Jay-Jay McCargo will receive a taste of what it’s like to block for Logan Byrd on Jan. 3. That day, the two Tar Heel pledges will be teammates during the Semper Fiedlis All-American Bowl.
“I’m really excited for it,” McCargo said. “I think it’s a really cool opportunity. I’ve talked to Logan about it and I know he’s excited about it. I think it’s going to be a good learning experience. Being an offensive lineman and a quarterback, I think we’re going to see a lot of each other [in college] and it’s good to get a head start.”
On Tuesday, McCargo, a 6-foot-3, 306-pound O-lineman, had his Semper Fi All-American jersey presentation at Arlington (Va.) Bishop O’Connell High School.
“It feels really good to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve put in these past few years,” McCargo said. “It feels good to see how Bishop O’Connell is being recognized, also.”
A few days prior, McCargo was in Chapel Hill for UNC’s rout of Wake Forest. Although the four-star prospect has visited the campus seven times previously, it was his first game in Kenan Stadium.
“It was beautiful,” McCargo said. “It’s hard to see myself play any place else. It was everything I hoped it would be. Especially considering the attendance was good playing a team like Wake Forest with the students on break. But I had a great time.”
McCargo says there’s a different feel to walking UNC as a verbal commitment.
“I’m not trying to evaluate the school – it’s just seeing myself being there,” McCargo said. “I just really can’t wait.”
Saturday’s visit was McCargo’s first since back-to-back summer visits to Chapel Hill for knee surgery.
“I had my procedure done by the same people who are [UNC’s] team doctors,” McCargo said. “And then I came back for the check up to see how everything went.”
During the summer prior to his junior season, McCargo unknowingly partially tore his patellar tendon while preforming wide receiver drills (no, that’s not a typo) during Wake Forest’s Camp. Unaware, he played with the injury throughout the ensuing season and during the subsequent spring camp circuit.
“I went through the season and all I really knew was that my knee just really hurt,” McCargo said. “I just iced it and took Motrin before games.”
After participating in the Nike Training Camp in April, McCargo finally had an MRI, which revealed the partial tear.
While healing from the procedure, McCargo missed Bishop O’Connell’s season opener. He then was eased into the lineup by playing just two quarters in each of the next two games.
In addition to shaking off rust, McCargo had to adjust to a move to center, a position he hadn’t played since the eighth grade.
“It was a little different relearning those techniques and also shorter steps,” McCargo said. “But also, I like it because you get your hands on the defender and get real physical on the inside, which is something that I really miss.”
The fact that McCargo seamlessly moved from tackle to center speaks of his versatility. It also shows why Chris Kapilovic, UNC’s offensive line coach, is finding difficulty projecting McCargo’s college position.
“I think he’s still going to try to stick me in at guard and go from there,” McCargo said. “But he says he really doesn’t know where I’m going to end up.”
Another option, which Kapilovic has mentioned, is not pigeonholing McCargo for one position and allowing UNC’s depth to determine where he plays. Kapilovic has used other O-lineman similarly.
McCargo plans to return to UNC on Nov. 14 for the home finale against Miami. He’ll be joined by teammate/Virginia verbal commitment Landon Word on the trip.
“I’m definitely going to try to do some recruiting,” McCargo laughed.
But McCargo cautions to not get your hopes up. He’s batting .000 in that department.
“I’m no Tyler Pritchett,” McCargo chuckled. “I tried with three kids [Cameron Brown, Will Fries, and Alex Gellerstedt] and they all ended up committing to Penn State, which is funny because that was my second choice.”
A couple of months after the UNC-Miami game, McCargo will be back in Chapel Hill for his official trip.
The only other school that McCargo could officially visit is Rhode Island and that will be for reasons other than choosing a college. His father not only graduated from the school, but is in its hall of fame.
“Growing up, I just always wanted to see [the University of Rhode Island],” McCargo said. “But, I’m not really evaluating the school.”