McCladdie has an edge at home

The Citadel's Brandon McCladdie (right) covers Quintin Payton as the American team practices for the Medal of Honor Bowl (Wade Spees/Staff)

Citadel cornerback Brandon McCladdie has a home-field advantage at the Medal of Honor this week.

McCladdie, a senior cornerback, is the only Bulldogs player on either roster for the college football all-star game, which features NFL draft-eligible players from across the country.

He's the only one of the 98 players to have previously worked out on The Citadel's practice field or played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, where kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Any edge is important when you are trying to make an impression on the more than 100 NFL scouts and coaches.

"Any way I can get some exposure, that's good," said McCladdie, who is from Martinez, Ga.

Where McCladdie is concerned, NFL scouts have a point of reference. There's already one Citadel cornerback in the NFL - Cortez Allen just finished his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At 6-1 and 200 pounds, McCladdie is big for a cornerback, comparable to Allen's 6-1 and 196 pounds. He probably won't test as well in the 40-yard dash or other NFL combine events as Allen, who was a testing machine on the way to becoming a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

On the other hand, McCladdie had a very productive career at The Citadel, finishing with eight interceptions and 27 passes defended, ranking 11th and sixth in school history, respectively.

So far in practices, McCladdie said he's fit right in with players from around the country.

"I definitely feel like I belong," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and compete and try to show what I can do to these NFL scouts, and try to make a name for myself."

In-depth interviews with scouts are another ritual of all-star games like the Medal of Honor Bowl.

"They want to know your background," McCladdie said. "It's not just what you can do on the field, it's your character. They are looking at your whole life, basically.

"From the day you were born, they want to know your family, your parents, what sports you played, if you've ever been in trouble. My background is clean, so I've been blessed."

With scouts ringing the practice field at The Citadel, each rep is pressure-packed.

"You have to treat every day like game day," McCladdie said, "because you know how crucial every rep is this week."

Each team will have a walk-through at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Friday morning, the American team at 9:30 a.m. and the National team at 11 a.m. After lunch, the players are on their own from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., their longest stretch of free time for the week.

The Medal of Honor Bowl features the nation's leading tackler in San Jose State linebacker Keith Smith (5-11, 225), who had 159 tackles this season. He plays for the National team.

The game also features two sets of twins, both on the American team: Linemen Jordan and Justin McCray, both 6-3 and 310 and from Central Florida; and linebacker Jamal Merrell (6-4, 220) and defensive end Jamil Merrell (6-4, 255), both from Rutgers.

Wake Forest's Nikita Whitlock (5-10, 250) had a productive college career as a nose tackle. But he's playing tight end and fullback in the Medal of Honor Bowl.