Narrowing the Field?

Florida running back Onterio McCalebb is beginning to narrow his field of favorites, but there is still some wiggle room for additional schools to get into the mix. What schools are currently atop his list, and which ones are likely to get official visits from the Florida standout?

"I like West Virginia – I like how they run their offense," said McCalebb, who shares that opinion with many ballcarriers. "They spread it out and let the running backs get the ball."

Rich Rodriguez' running game out of the spread is, pardon the expression, spreading quickly in the high school ranks. McCalebb's Fort Meade High School team is just one of many to take some pages from the Mountaineer playbook.

"I like [the spread] because the defense doesn't really know when or where I am going to get the ball," McCalebb said. "I can get matchups with linebackers and I can beat them. They aren't fast enough to cover me. The spread has worked well for me."

Fort Meade is also using McCalebb in one of the more recent evolutions of the spread – moving running backs into the slot. West Virginia was very successful with this a year ago, as Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt combined for 451 yards on 39 receptions, three of which went for touchdowns. McCalebb nearly matched those numbers himself. Playing at times in the slot, he recorded 23 catches for 400 yards and seven scores, which shows he has the ability to be flanked out in the offense.

"West Virginia has told me that they are looking at me at running back, but that they know I can play in the slot, too. They also said I would get the chance to run back kicks and punts," he added.

McCalebb's versatility makes him a prized Mountaineer target (he will also play strong safety on defense for Fort Meade), but he is keeping his focus on his rushing game, which is obviously his bread and butter. After rushing for more than 1600 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, he has set his sights on a record breaking-performance as a senior.

"I'm trying to break 2400 yards rushing. That's the record I am shooting for," McCalebb said. "It will be tough, but I have been training and working hard. I can't let anyone outwork me this year. And I have some big boys [on the offensive line] in front of me this year, so I think I can do it."

In between his assault on the record books, McCalebb will begin fitting in official visits. He has not set any dates yet, but has West Virginia, Auburn, Clemson, Rutgers and Georgia atop the list of schools he wants to visit. While those schools currently ride high on his list, however, he has not eliminated other schools from the mix.

"I want to see who shows up at my games this year," said McCalebb. "That's one way I will know who is really interested in me."

West Virginia has kept its name right on that list, visiting McCalebb earlier this year and staying in touch with him throughout the approved contact periods.

"Coach Magee and Coach Smith have been down to see me," he said. "Coach Smith had one of my high school coaches at South Florida, so he knows a lot that's going on. He's really easy to talk to – he told me he would be like my Daddy.

"West Virginia tried to get me up there for a visit this summer, but I wasn't able to work it out," McCalebb added. "But they will get me up there for an official. I'm going to be setting that up in the next week."

If a trip to the Labor Day weekend opener against Western Michigan can't be set in time, McCalebb will likely take in either the East Carolina (Sept. 22) or Mississippi State (Oct. 20) contests, as he is looking to finish his visits and make his decision by the time the Florida high school playoffs roll around.

"I am going to try to take all five of my officials, because I want to see them all," McCalebb noted. "But I don't think I will be going into December of January. Maybe by November, I want to be making my decision."

McCalebb, who opens his senior season this Friday, has grown since his junior year. Now standing an even six feet and weighing 170 pounds, he has lost none of his impressive speed. He laid down a 4.3 40-yard dash this summer, and when that's combined with the array of outstanding moves he possesses, it's no wonder that top schools in the big East, SEC and ACC are vying for his commitment.

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