Tim McClendon dined on brisket and baked beans on Wednesday evening, a last meal of sorts before reporting for basic training.
But he’s already eyeing the main course six weeks from now — the beginning of his first Air Force football season.
“Of course I’ve got football on my mind,” said McClendon, a three-star outside linebacker from Ozark, Ala. “I’m excited to get my feet wet, get the playbook down and hopefully compete and get into the rotation.”
McClendon’s enthusiasm was shared by many as the freshman class reported on Thursday. One coach felt it was the best class he had seen at the academy in at least seven years, the product of a series of recruiting victories over the past two years.
McClendon and fellow outside linebacker Jace Waters represented a pair of three-star recruits who spent the past year at the prep school, as did quarterback Haaziq Daniels. Touted tight end Kyle Patterson, who turned down Alabama in favor of Air Force, was among those coming in directly from high school.
As another coach noted, getting the athletes to the academy for in-processing is only the first step. Now, those athletes must complete basic training. Then they have to succeed at the academy and develop as players before they can expect to contribute.
The players seemed to grasp that challenge.
“We’re going to be scout team,” Waters said.
“But we’re going to set the tone and make all those guys better.”