One of the biggest changes for Tim McCloyn over the past year at Illinois State University is the number on the scale when he weighs in.
The Huntley graduate came into the Redbirds’ football program as a 220-pound linebacker. This summer, he is weighing in at 242 pounds.
“They beefed me up a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “It was gradually over the winter and spring.”
Thanks to an intense training regimen as a redshirt last season and a focus on nutrition, “I was getting my body right and up to speed with the college level of football.”
McCloyn’s added bulk also has beefed up his chances of getting on the field this fall at a new position.
Although he had minimal offensive experience in high school, McCloyn said he jumped at the chance to play fullback after a discussion with ISU coaches after the season.
“They thought it would help the offense, so I decided to go in on the transition,” he said. “That works out perfect for me. My goal was to get on the field as quickly as possible. So when fullback opened up, I took it.
“Seeing some of the footage of how our fullbacks played last year, I think I can help,” said McCloyn, who was honored as ISU’s special teams scout team player of the year after last season. “As soon as I got to the position, I showed them that I have an offensive skill set. I’ve been doing pretty well, running routes better and catching the ball.”
McCloyn is among a new group of blockers for the Redbirds, who return only one starter on the offensive line from last season.
“The main thing I like so far is I get to use my physicality like I did at linebacker,” he said. “That’s a big part of my game, how physical I am and my aggressiveness. I’m seeking out collisions.”
Despite losing all three starters at linebacker from last season to graduation, ISU had plenty of depth at the position.
“It was smart for them to pull one or two away and try us at a different position,” he said. “I was a choice because of all the depth we had at linebacker.”
The Redbirds finished 6-6 last season and made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for a school-record third year in a row. The Redbirds lost to Central Arkansas, 31-24, but were encouraged by a strong finish after a 2-4 start.
“I see a lot of passion in this group,” McCloyn said. “Guys are really out to prove that we’re a team that other teams need to worry about.”
For some athletes who starred in high school, a redshirt season can be a letdown. For McCloyn, it was an awakening.
“I really figured out my purpose here,” he said. “I’m here to make this team better. They [recruited] me for a reason. That motivated me to be better. I felt like it benefited me. I wanted to catch up to the rest of the guys so I could be at their level as quickly as possible.”
Ranked recruits: The Athlon Sports College Football preview magazine ranked two local football players among their teams’ top 10 recruits for this fall.
Huntley grad Lere Oladipo, a defensive lineman at Illinois, was ranked the team’s seventh-best recruit in this year’s class. Oladipo joins an Illini team that finished 3-9 last season under first-year head coach Lovie Smith.
Jacobs grad Chris Katrenick, a quarterback at Duke, is ranked eighth among Blue Devils recruits. Duke was 4-8 last season under head coach David Cutcliffe, who is entering his 10th season.
North Central achiever: Huntley grad Sam Marcuccelli ran a career-best time of 9 minutes, 30.83 seconds this spring in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to earn fifth place at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin outdoor championships.
Marcuccelli, a senior at D-III North Central College in Naperville, improved his career-best time by almost six seconds in the event. His effort helped North Central finish second as a team to Augustana.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.