When you’ve got a player on your team nicknamed “Bone Crusher,” it may not be the best idea to have him around delicate objects.
That’s not always the case, though, according to Vidalia (Ga.) High School coach Sid Fritts.
“Eric is a big, intimidating, dominant football player,” Fritts said of defensive tackle Eric McLendon. “But as good as he is on the football field, he’s an even better kid off of it. I have two little girls that are 6 and 9, and I wouldn’t hesitate to let him baby-sit them. He’s that type of kid, respected by all his peers and our faculty. He’s got a lot of character and a gentle side off the field.”
None of it is wasted on opponents. As a junior, McLendon (6-6, 288, 4.9) earned all-state honors after recording 58 tackles, 15 quarterback pressures, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles.
“He’s like no other kid that I’ve ever had,” Fritts said. “He’s a 290-pound kid who looks thin. He’s 6-foot-6 and really put together well. There’s no fat on him. He’s got great flexibility and agility. He really runs well, which is what everyone is looking for in a defensive tackle. He’s extremely strong. He’s got a 345-pound power clean, around a 400 bench, and a 585 squat. He’s got a vertical jump around 35, 36 inches. He works hard on and off the field. I just can’t imagine there being many better defensive linemen in the nation better than this kid.”
The lone question mark with McLendon at this point is his academic status. Fritts said he fell behind where he needed to be in the core curriculum earlier in his career, but has been making strides of late.
“He’s got seven classes right now trying to catch up,” he said. “And this is the kind of kid he is: He dropped his weight-lifting class so he could focus on the academics, but he’s coming in at 6 o’clock in the morning every day and lifts with me. He’s very dedicated.”
McLendon hasn’t been participating in spring drills due to his success in track and field. He’s qualified for the state championship in the shot put. But that hasn’t stopped college scouts from making their way to Vidalia this spring.
“We’ve had quite a few,” Fritts said. “The latest was (Florida coach) Ron Zook not too long ago. LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina… They’ve all been through here. They’ve all offered him a scholarship.”
Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Colorado, Michigan and Stanford are also showing heavy interest, Fritts said.
“The SEC and ACC have been on him for a long time, but the Big Ten and Big 12 have really started to pay him a lot of attention this spring,” he added.
The home state Bulldogs reportedly hold the lead in his recruitment, with Auburn, Tennessee and Florida State also highly regarded.
“I think he liked what Georgia did last year and the direction their program is going,” Fritts said. “They’ve got a lot of the things that he’s looking for.”
McLendon plans to attend the Nike combine at Auburn on May 18 and is considering summer camps at Georgia, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina.