Prep Signing: Will West Rowan’s McLaughlin be linebacker or defensive lineman at Wingate?
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — There was a play in last season’s West Rowan-Salisbury game that told you all you need to know about Bubba McLaughlin’s head-hunting skills as a linebacker.
Speedy Hornet Justin Ruffin went around left end and started weaving his way past Falcon defenders. Far from the play was No. 2, who never stopped pursuing. It was McLaughlin, who ended up making the tackle from behind 20 yards downfield.
It’s the type of play that opens recruiters’ eyes.
That’s where McLaughlin is headed to continue his career. The question now is, does he remain at linebacker or does the 6-foot-2, 260-pound beast go to the defensive line?
“They asked me where I thought I should play,” McLaughlin said. “I told them anywhere they needed me. I really wasn’t worried about that.”
West Rowan coach Scott Young thinks McLaughlin can flourish at either.
“Throughout the recruiting process, there were times they talked about linebacker and other times, they talked about beefing him up and going to the defensive front,” Young said. “I still think they’re unsure.”
McLaughlin said he might find out Saturday when he attends Wingate’s spring game and gets his nutrition and weightlifting plans.
“If it’s linebacker, I’ll have to drop some pounds and gain some speed,” McLaughlin said. “I feel I can do it with their nutrition and speed training.”
“I can pick it up pretty quickly,” he said.
McLaughlin says either spot is OK as long as he’s on defense. Wingate certainly won’t have to worry about his mindset. He’s ready to pound some ballcarriers.
In fact, when asked what he liked best about defense, he said inflicting pain.
“I’d rather be the hammer than the nail,” he said. “If you play offense, you’re setting yourself up to get hit. On defense, you’re the person hitting.”
Hitting was something McLaughlin and fellow linebacker Logan Stoodley did well after he transferred from South Rowan for his senior year. They led Young’s Falcons to another 10-win season.
“Me and Logan talked about how cool it would be to play together,” McLaughlin said. “Last summer when I got here, we connected. If one person got blocked, the other made the tackle.”
“I thought those two ended up being one of the most solid linebacker pair around,” Young added.
Division II schools Wingate and UNC Pembroke recruited McLaughlin, as well as D3 Methodist and Averett. He made official visits on consecutive days to Pembroke and Wingate and was most impressed with the Bulldogs.
“I loved the facilities and loved the coaches,” he said. “Even though it was late in the process, they stayed with me.”
Young has been pleased with his stud defender.
“Since coming to us last year, Bubba has been a pleasant surprise,” Young said. “We were glad to have the opportunity to work with him. I’m glad it’s paying off and he’s getting to the next level.”
And when Big Bubba reaches the next level, where will he play, defensive line or linebacker?
He doesn’t care.
“It’s still football,” he grinned.
And still a chance to continue what he does best: run down speedy running backs from behind.