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On the Beat: Clemson WR McCloud pictured Tampa trip before the season

January 2, 2017

CLEMSON — The most recent entry on Ray-Ray McCloud’s Instagram account is one step away from proving prophetic.

In fall camp, upon finding out his hometown was hosting this season’s national championship, McCloud posted a photo of a brick wall painted with a “City of Tampa” marquee, and McCloud in the forefront dressed in his Clemson uniform with a gleaming look in his eye. In his right hand is a football. In his left hand is the national championship trophy.

McCloud simply can’t wait to compete for the biggest prize in college football in the city where several generations of his ancestors put down roots. The sophomore wide receiver’s grandfather and great-grandfather grew up in Tampa.

“Yes sir, it’s a blessing. I can’t even explain,” McCloud said. “It’s just exciting. To get the rematch with Alabama, at home, it’s big for me.”

McCloud went out of his way to note the equal excitement for fellow receivers Deon Cain, also from Tampa, and Artavis Scott, from the Tampa suburb of Clearwater.

“Even if it was somewhere else, this is a big step for us to get this win,” McCloud said. “Seeing the faces last year (after losing the title game), I can’t wait to go out there and play.”

McCloud caught four passes for 29 yards and added eight yards on two rushing attempts in Saturday’s 31-0 win over Ohio State. He has 49 catches for 472 yards and two scores this year.

Roommate dispute

Senior safety Jadar Johnson admitted he made a mistake in criticizing OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett’s passing ability during pre-Fiesta Bowl interviews, though he was vindicated by the Tigers’ shutout.

“I’m just glad we came out here and backed it up,” Johnson said Saturday night. “I said a lot of stuff earlier this week. I shouldn’t have said it, but I said it. I don’t really regret saying it. He’s a good player. We just came out here with a mindset ready to dominate, and that’s what we did.”

Barrett threw two interceptions, and the second was a deep-ball prayer under which Johnson settled, ready to make his sixth pick of the year. Instead, fellow safety Van Smith swooped over to make the interception.

“Oh, we gonna fight about that. That’s my roommate, man,” Johnson said, with a smile. “He’s not going to steal without fighting with me about that one.”

To Smith’s credit, he returned the pick 93 yards to set up Clemson’s final touchdown.

Better in the desert

Back to his days at Oklahoma, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had plenty of experience at University of Phoenix Stadium. Before Saturday’s triumph, he personally had a 1-3 record in Glendale,

“I’ve lost in this stadium too many times,” Venables said. “We’re getting closer to .500.”

Record-setter

With two sacks Saturday, All-ACC first-team senior Carlos Watkins became the first defensive tackle in Clemson history to surpass 10 sacks in a season. He has 10.5 on the year, passing Jim Stuckey, William Perry and Michael Dean Perry.