'08 Unwrapped: Dan McCarthy

Jim Harbaugh, a former All-American at Michigan, has not been shy about diving into Big 10 country in this 2008 recruiting cycle. One of the hotly contested targets for whom the Cardinal are battling is Dan McCarthy, a 6'2" 193-pound athlete from Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney. To survive this fight, Stanford is hoping for an unofficial visit before the standout safety makes his decision.

Dan McCarthy is another example of a Stanford recruit in the 2008 recruiting class who plays quarterback for his high school but is slated for another position in college.  The 6'2" athlete was a dual threat for Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney High School last fall, rushing for 20 touchdowns and 1,900 yards along with 750 yards passing and another eight scores through the air.  McCarthy also started at safety on a defense that allowed just nine points per game, recording two interceptions, six tackles for loss and more than 100 tackles.

"They really let me play to my potential on both sides of the ball and didn't really restrict me at all," says the junior two-way standout of his coaches at Cardinal Mooney.  "They just let me use my talents to the best of my ability."

The Cardinals enjoyed an unbeaten 14-0 season and state championship in 2006.  In the 26-12 victory in the Division IV title game, McCarthy rushed for 161 net yards on 22 carries (he threw sparingly: 2-of-4 for 61 yards) and a fourth-down touchdown.  He also made a key fumble recovery deep in the opponent's territory at the end of the third quarter that turned the game to Cardinal Mooney.

McCarthy is slated most likely for defense in college.  He points to a handful of schools who are talking to him about playing under center in their spread/option offense - Boston College, West Virginia and the service academies.  The rest of the college football universe see him at safety, which includes the 11 schools who have offered him to date.  Stanford, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, Miami (OH), Iowa and Akron have tendered scholarships for the standout safety.

"First, I like to come up and hit.  Also, I'm pretty good in pass coverage," McCarthy describes of his play on defense.  "But you can never be satisfied, and you always want to get better.  That's true with all aspects - speed, coverage and coming up to the stop the run."

McCarthy played at 185 pounds during his junior season and today tilts the scales at 193.  He is aiming to start his senior season between 200 and 205 pounds, though without detracting from his trademark speed.  McCarthy was last clocked in the 40 running a sensational 4.48, and he has consistently run in the low 4.5s.  Though he is adding strength and size in this off-season, the defensive back prospect is mindful of maintaining his speed.

"I played basketball and kept my legs in shape.  I've been lifting through that.  Now I'm doing speed training and running track," he says.  "I'm just lifting along with all of my speed work."

Just starting his junior track season, McCarthy has yet to run in a meet this year.  As a sophomore, he record personal bests of 11.4 in the 100m and 22.0 in the 200m.

There is another race underway for the Youngstown athlete, as he aims to conclude his college recruitment before the start of his senior season.  He is not yet sprinting to the finish line, however.  "That's what I'm aiming for, but if that's not the case, then I have no problem waiting it out and making a decision late," he says.

"At this point right now, I'm just taking it all in and weighing my options.  I'm really trying to get a lot of information about the schools, but I haven't narrowed it down too much yet.  I'm still open to everything," McCarthy maintains.  "I'm trying to schedule some unofficial visits in the spring and summer, so that I can really get a feel for the schools.  But some of these schools are obviously going to be more difficult to travel to.  If I'm not set on my decision before the season, then I might take some officials during the season."

"I'm hoping to get out to Stanford sometime either end of this spring or early summer, but I haven't really made any specific plans yet," he adds.

The only such unofficial trip scheduled on McCarthy's itinerary takes him today to Penn State for their Junior Day.  He will likely hit campuses within driving distance during the spring, but more distant suitors like Stanford, Oklahoma and LSU may be more difficult.

Prior to taking these visits, McCarthy denies any favorite at this time.  Of his top seven schools, six have offered scholarships and another could be close.

"Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma - and Florida has been in contact with me a lot also.  I get something handwritten from them almost every day," he describes.  "They have told me that they're evaluating my tapes right now.  They're very interested and will get back to me really soon, with a good chance that they might have something for me.  But I can't depend on that.  I'm not waiting for that.  I'll see how it all goes."

With his recruitment admittedly "wide open" and just a few months until the start of his senior season, the hard work of narrowing his school list is still in front of him.

"That's the tough part," McCarthy laments.  "I'm very grateful for all of these schools.  We're first going to look at the academics.  I need to find a school where I'm going to get a good education.  Second is the football program.  Also location - where it's at.  It all comes down to where I feel the best and where the best fit and best opportunities will be for me."

When it comes to location, the Cardinal are the furthest from home among the Cardinal Mooney's 11 scholarship suitors.  But McCarthy prides himself as a student-athlete, carrying a 3.7 GPA with honors courses. 

"I've been in close contact with Coach D.J. Durkin from Stanford," the recruit tells.  "About two weeks after the Signing Day for the seniors, he texted me and told me to call him.  I called him, and he told me the good news.  I was excited about it.  It's an honor to get a scholarship from such a great school.  I'm really excited about it right now."

"What really stands out for me about Stanford is the academics and the education you receive when you go there," McCarthy continues.  "That's really important to me.  Stanford has the academics, and they also have a good football program.  It's a very good school."

"Everything I've heard about Stanford and read about it so far has been great, but I'd really like to get out there and see for myself," he adds.

On paper, Stanford has a tough fight on its hands to pull such a hotly contested recruit from the heart of Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame recruiting territory.  The fact that McCarthy puts the Cardinal in his top seven is evidence that he is serious in his interest, though the tell-tale sign will be an unofficial visit in the coming months.  Otherwise, Stanford will have to hope that the safety extends his recruitment into the fall and takes official visits.

"Really it will all come down to the best fit for me, where I'm going to have the best opportunity, how I'm going to get along with the coaches and what kind of players are going to come in with me," McCarthy sums up.  "We'll just see how it goes."

So shall we.  Stay tuned through the spring as Dan McCarthy plans his visits and narrows the field of his closely watched college recruitment.

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