D.C. LB: A ‘Chief' Prospect

At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with 4.55 speed, 238 tackles in two seasons and a spot on the U.S. Army All-American Bowl roster, Rico McCoy is the real McCoy at linebacker.

The Washington D.C. prep star, who's rated the nation's No. 15 prospect at his position by Scout.com, is a classic striker in that he tackles with such leverage as to drive an opponent into the ground; much the same as a striker in volleyball slams down a point. In conversation he is engaging and gregarious. In competition he is athletic and enthusiastic — especially when it comes to engaging an opponent in physical contact. Yet, McCoy's penchant for hostility is equaled by genuine humility.

"I'm very energetic and emotional," McCoy stated. "I'm very physical and I look for the big hit. I'm real aggressive and need to calm down a little. I tend to over run plays. I'd also like to react to the ball better."

While McCoy wants to elevate his game, it would be difficult to improve on his production. Playing middle linebacker at St. John's College High School in D.C., he made plays from sideline to sideline and was the model of consistency, recording 120 tackles as a junior and 118 as a senior. Those tackle totals are more impressive when you realize they came in the course of a 10-game schedule. In those 20 games he also had 12 sacks, three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and six caused fumbles. He was great at separating backs from the football as well as their senses.

McCoy's noteworthy achievements helped lead the Cadets to a 7-3 mark in 2004 and are all the more remarkable when you consider he played the entire season at less than 100 percent.

"I got hurt toward the end of the season," he explained. "I sprained my wrist in the final game of the season and in the first game of the season I dislocated my thumb. That's something serious right there. I've never experienced that before."

McCoy learned the disposable thumb is indispensable to a linebacker at ground zero constantly grasping and pulling, but he still put up first team All-Metro numbers on defense while adding eight rushing touchdowns on offense. Naturally a player so athletic and stoic is going to attraction a lot of attention and offers. Miami, Florida State, Pittsburgh and North Carolina were among the many schools to compete for McCoy's services but Ohio State and Tennessee are his two finalists.

"I'm looking for a couple of things," he said. "I want to be comfortable there. I've got to have my comfort zone. Distance isn't a factor as you can see with Tennessee and Ohio State. Neither one of them are close. I'm looking for great tradition and Tennessee has that. Coach Fulmer said he's been there over 30 years. He went to school there and he's still there coaching now so that's pretty impressive. Stability is important to me."

McCoy, who plans to major in communications, has received a crash course in media relations during the recruiting process and he will capitalize on the NBC national broadcast of the Army All-American Bowl to announce his choice between the Buckeyes and Volunteers. He enjoyed great official visits to both campuses and has developed a close relationship with UT's defensive coordinator John Chavis, whom he refers to by Chavis' familiar nickname — Chief.

"My visit went well, I got along well with the players," he said of his UT visit on Dec. 10. "The coaches and players were all cool. Chief is what I was worried about right there. He was my position coach and I liked him. Everything went great. The campus isn't too big. When I saw the stadium it was crazy how big it was.

"Coach Slade has been recruiting me for Tennessee. He's pretty cool, he's pretty laid back and pretty funny. And then later on Chief came on. So I'm talking to him a lot because that's my coach right there, the defensive coordinator and position coach. I was real impressed with him when I first met him down at Tennessee and I'm calling him now. Chief is cool."

Early playing opportunity is something McCoy is closely monitoring and he's well versed on the details.

"I know that Tennessee and Ohio State both have great linebackers," he said. "Tennessee's got Kevin Simon coming back, Omar (Gaither) and Jason Mitchell. Those are some pretty good guys right there. I'm being realistic about it. I just want to get on the field and get my feet wet and when those guys are gone then that's a great opportunity for me."

Originally, McCoy considered a redshirt year as being a positive, but now he's leaning more toward gaining enough playing time as a rookie to compete for a starting job as a sophomore.

"I was thinking about redshirting but not anymore," he stated. "The situation at both schools is pretty good. I think they both have four or five seniors coming back next year so after my freshman year I'm trying to start. I want to compete so I don't think I should take that year off. I think I need to get on the field and get my feet wet."

McCoy, who has a brother on the Syracuse football team, is looking forward to competing against the nation's best in San Antonio on Jan. 15 and is excited about making his decision known on network television.

"Yes sir that was one of my dreams," he said. "When I first got to high school I wanted to play in that U.S. Army All-American game.

"It may have to go down to a gut feeling because I know when I tally the positives and negatives about both schools it's going to be so close. I may just follow my heart."

Regardless of his heart leads him, don't be surprised if McCoy makes an immediate impact at the next level. With a 325-pound bench press and a 590-pound squat, he certainly has the strength. He also has a 34-inch vertical leap and advanced coverage skills. He's also an outstanding leader, who was voted the Cadet team captain. Then there's his ability to change the course of a game with a single blow or big play.

In short: This D.C. dandy is a D.C.'s dream and, therefore, a standout on Chief's prospect wish list.

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