CHAPEL HILL – Next man up is a term often used in college football, especially along the offensive line where seemingly more attrition occurs than within any other position group.
Jay-Jay McCargo got that call last week, and he made the most of it.
The 6-3, 295-pound center from Alexandria, VA, graded out well after replacing starting center Cam Dillard, who was injured and left the game for good in the third quarter. Head coach Larry Fedora said McCrgo graded out well.
“We’re proud of him. He came in cold and did a nice job,” Fedora said. “All of his snaps were good, that’s number one… He came in, he was level headed, he communicated well, he made good snaps, so we were proud of him for that.”
For his first time playing in a college game, McCargo avoided the nerves that afflict many players by simply sticking with the principles taught to him by his position coach Chris Kapilovic.
“First snap, call the defense, stick to my rules and do what Coach Kap told us to do,” McCargo said, smiling.
As for how he played?
“I think I played okay for a first outing,” the redshirt freshman said. “But what matters more is what’s in the future that I have to improve on.”
One of the most difficult things to get a player ready for is the speed of an actual live game, but McCargo felt like he was adequately prepared for that aspect.
“Being a two and going against the ones in some of the scrimmages, it was pretty comparative,” he said. “We do a great job simulating it. It was pretty close.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge he faced was staying level emotionally, not getting too high or too low. The lessons learned, though, really shined through when he watched the film.
It’s one thing to watch film of practice or even a scrimmage, but this was a real game against a talented, quality opponent.
“It’s invaluable, actually,” he said about the film. “Something I’ve been waiting for a year to get, it’s good to be able to gauge what kind of player I am at the college level and see what things I really need to improve on versus live opponents that don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Pad level when run blocking is one thing for sure McCargo said he must work on, among other things. And being ready to go is something he will keep doing.
McCargo worked with the ones all week, so it’s unlikely Dillard will play this weekend, so McCargo will get his first college start.
“I’m ready to go,” he said.