Life as a rookie football player at his first West Virginia University football camp can be daunting. New coaches, new system, new teammates and a new environment – and once he acclimates himself to those changes, he must then prepare to enter his first year of college courses.
Freshman wide receiver Ivan McCartney stands above his peers in regards to the inevitable adjustment period, and his advantage has nothing to do with his 6-foot-3-inch, 183-pound frame.
As one of five Miramar High School alums donning the Old Gold and Blue, McCartney enters WVU with a handful of friendships already intact. Most noteworthy, McCartney reunites with his former quarterback, sophomore Geno Smith, and the U.S. Army All-American and 2009 Florida 6A all-state first team honoree says the duo has picked up right where they left off in high school.
“Not much has changed – pretty much everything is the same,” McCartney noted this past week. “Geno’s timing has changed tremendously – he gets the ball out that much faster. That’s the biggest difference since high school.”
While the connection with his quarterback appears to have survived a one-year separation, McCartney, after a short pause and quick shake of his head, admits that very few similarities are found between the high school and college game.
“Everything is new to me!” he exclaimed to laughter. “The speed is different. So is the play calling. You just have to learn everything and go along with it.
“(Last year), I was told so much by Stedman and Geno. They would tell me how the game changed when you come from high school to college. I expected a lot of what I’m now seeing. I have just gone with the flow. It’s been a blast so far, just getting a feel for what college football is.”
One thing that has remained consistent is the buzz that surrounds McCartney. A heralded recruit out of Miramar, Fla., McCartney’s honor list at the conclusion of the 2009 season easily warrants a brief mention. In just his senior year, McCartney found himself on the Miami Herald first team all-county team, the Mobile Press-Register’s Southeast Top 20 team and the Sun Sentinel first team all-county. Additionally, he was named Broward County’s No. 1 wide receiver by the Florida Times Union and a Top 5 recruit in South Florida by the Miami Herald, as well has a member of the Sporting News’ Top 35. And just to add a bit of glitz, McCartney’s cousin is Cincinnati Bengal wide out Chad Ochocinco.
Despite the attention he received from several big-name schools, including visits to Florida, Miami and Oregon, McCartney says the decision to bring his talents to Morgantown was an easy one.
“When I came up for my visit, I felt a lot of chemistry with my teammates,” he recalled. “(Wide receivers) coach (Lonnie) Galloway stayed on top of me. He made sure everything went well. We talked, and our conversation wasn’t just about football – it was mainly about life.
“I also saw the opportunity and the potential to play early. Coach Galloway showed me the wide receiver depth chart, and I saw that there weren’t too many guys here. They are all good, quality receivers – great receivers. I felt like no matter where I went, I would have to compete to get out on the field. Here, the depth is low, and I felt like I could come in and get out on the field early this year.”
Coach Galloway hasn’t backed off of McCartney since his arrival on campus.
“He tells me that as long as I stay in the playbook and learn how to block correctly I can be on the field,” McCartney said. “That’s the biggest confidence boost that he can give me right now.”
McCartney does not need his coach’s prodding, as he has every intention of stepping between the lines this season and reconnecting with Smith.
“There are a lot of things being thrown to me right now, but I’m coming along really well,” he said through a smile. “I just have to take it in. I’m trying to play this year. I’m trying my hardest to get out on the field. So, I just have to learn everything and try to help the team win a BIG EAST Championship.”
Despite Saturday’s scrimmage only marking the 14th day of McCartney’s acclimation period, the deep threat already feels at home with the Mountaineers.
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