A lack of ideal size and a torn ACL last October.
Those are the only two things that dictate a bit of caution as it pertains to Cameron McGrone, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker out of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis.
The size, because of his overall aggression and skillset, looks to be a hurdle easily cleared.
The knee injury, which prevented some of the premier schools from jumping in with scholarship offers, must be a thing of the past after his performance at The Opening in Oakland a couple of weeks ago.
So impressive was McGrone just seven months removed from a torn right ACL that his eye-opening performance prompted an invitation to The Opening Finals (June 28-July 3) at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Notre Dame quickly offered a scholarship, via linebackers coach Clark Lea, and now the Irish are among the pack of schools that interest McGrone the most, along with Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin.
McGrone visited for the Notre Dame-Stanford game (Oct. 15) in the immediate aftermath of suffering his knee injury, returned to the Notre Dame campus in April, and plans to be a part of Notre Dame’s annual summer extravaganza – the Irish Invasion – on June 10.
Personally, I’d put McGrone up there with five-star prospect Amon-Ra St. Brown and four-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad among the 2018 prospects I’m most excited to see in person.
McGrone’s assets begin with his sheer love for playing football, the athleticism to match his desire, the ferocity with which he plays the game, and a versatility that makes him a fit for either the Buck (weakside ILB) position or the Rover (OLB) spot.
McGrone told Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson that Notre Dame is recruiting him as a Buck, which is the best fit because it’s at the Buck spot that McGrone can influence a greater number of defensive snaps. If you want to bring him off the edge in situations, you can move him around pre-snap.
With verbal commitments from Mike linebacker prospect Matthew Bauer and Rover prospect Ogie Oghoufo (also invited to The Opening Finals), McGrone would provide symmetry to Notre Dame’s linebacker recruiting.
(Note: Another recruit, Jack Lamb, offers the versatility to play several linebacker positions, or could be a stand-up, off-the-edge player in the mold of weakside defensive end Daelin Hayes.)
It’s no wonder McGrone is listed by most as an outside linebacker. He’s a bullet off the edge, tracking quarterbacks and showing quality body control/change of direction.
One critique of McGrone at The Opening in Oakland was a need to improve his change of direction. But with the ACL injury in October, one could understand why he might not quite be caught up in that area. He wasn’t lacking in change of direction pre-knee injury.)
McGrone is fast and quick. He flashes great closing speed in short space, and can run down ball carriers across the field. He arrives to the ball carrier in a physical, destructive frame of mind. Every snap is an all-out effort by McGrone.
His love for the game is apparent in his body language on the football field. He thoroughly enjoys the contact, and the emotion quakes through his body after a big play.
McGrone shows great get-off from the snap and battles to get off blocks. He throws his body around the field with abandon. He plays with a college-level alertness. He had 93 tackles (31 solo) with four-and-a-half sacks despite the abbreviated junior season.
McGrone fits Notre Dame academically with a workload that includes A.P. courses (the rough equivalent of undergraduate college courses). He carries a 3.92 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.
His only two scheduled summer visits at this time are Wisconsin (June 9) and Notre Dame (June 10). Now that he has proven he is well on his way back to four-star level following the injury, his opportunities to visit schools this summer will expand.
At a listed 6-foot-1, leverage could prove to be an issue from the Buck linebacker position against those big interior offensive linemen. But it’s difficult to imagine a more aggressive, competitive player at Buck than McGrone. He can compensate for his lack of stature.
(Note: He is reminiscent of 1993-96 Will linebacker Kinnon Tatum, who was an undersized hitter that paced the Irish in tackles during his senior season. Tatum, however, was not the threat off the edge that McGrone is.)
McGrone likely will have to work on the nuances of pass coverage with his background attacking the football vertically, but he has the athleticism to do so, particularly once his right knee returns to full strength.
Irish Invasion can’t come soon enough to see this legitimate four-star prospect up close.