East Carolina wasn’t really a school on Xavier McIver’s recruiting radar when he decided to accompany his Cheraw (SC) High wide receiver teammate Jalen Coit to Greenville for a Junior Day function last March.
The Pirates had extended a scholarship offer in January to the 6-foot-1 1/2, 290-pound McIver, a defensive tackle starter for Cheraw since his freshman season. But it was home-state South Carolina along with Central Florida, Syracuse, Wake Forest and West Virginia that held McIver’s interest before the trek to ECU’s campus.
“East Carolina was not among Xavier’s top schools,” Cheraw coach Andy Poole said. “But we’ve had a great relationship with (special teams coordinator) coach (Roy) Tesh from his time at The Citadel and James Madison. So this was more of a courtesy visit for Xavier.
“But I told them on the way up there to not be surprised if they didn’t come away impressed. East Carolina is a football school. Football season is what those people live for.”
McIver and Coit toured the campus, saw the new facility upgrades, met with first-year head man Mike Houston and spent time with position coaches during the visit. On the ride home, McIver agreed with Poole’s pre-visit prediction.
“We talked all the way home,” Poole said. “(ECU defensive line) Coach (Jeff) Hanson is sort of the elder statesman … . He told Xavier, ‘Listen, I’m going to treat you like my young’un. I’ll get on you, praise you and and at the end of the day make you a better human being.”
McIver would make another unofficial visit to ECU in June before finally making a verbal commitment to the Pirates on August 14. He made that choice over Football Bowl Subdivision offers from Akron, Central Florida, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Middle Tennessee State, South Carolina, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple, Tulane, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
All those programs had plenty of time to evaluate McIver, who Poole said could have played at the high school level as an eighth grader.
“He’s always been a big kid,” Poole said. “He is just a big young man. Realistically, he could have played on the junior varsity as an eighth grader. When he got here, he had hit a growth spurt in the eighth grade. When he finally got here to the high school he had a great freshman year for us playing defensive end and tight end on offense.
“We knew we had a Division I prospect. We took him to South Carolina’s one-day camp and they offered him on the spot.”
The offer from the Gamecocks came right after a freshman season in which McIver made 36 tackles and three tackles for loss in 11 games for the Braves. Those statistics nearly doubled in McIver’s sophomore campaign when he collected 63 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five sacks.
Along with the college scholarship offers, accolades started pouring in after McIver’s junior season. After making 37 tackles, six tackles for loss and nine sacks, McIver was named to the S.C. High School League AAA all-state defense and chosen for USA Today’s All-South Carolina squad.
Just last week McIver was one of 44 players chosen for the South Carolina squad that will compete against North Carolina in the prestigious Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in December. That honor came in the midst of a 4-0 start by Cheraw during which McIver had 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.
One of those sacks occurred in the second game of the season, a 14-10 victory against Marlboro County. Poole said the play was a good example of McIver’s ability as a defensive lineman.
“Two guys were double teaming him,” Poole said. “He pretty much shedded them both and as the quarterback dropped to pass, he reached over and pulled him down with one hand. He does that kind of thing while playing both ways. He’s playing offense and defense for us. He missed maybe three snaps last Friday night, and then only to get a swallow of water.”
McIver is not only big and powerful, he’s also extremely athletic as evidenced by his performance on the basketball court. He was one of Cheraw’s top hoop players as a junior when he averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.
The positives about McIver don’t end there. Poole believes McIver is advanced for a prep player when it comes to the mental side of football.
“He’s a surgeon on the field,” Poole said. “He is a tape junkie. He sits with me during the day after practice watching film religiously. He can tell whether a guard has too much pressure on his hands or sits back in his stance. He looks at where the running back is pre-snap on every play. He knows all that stuff and that’s what makes him great.
“Of course, he’s gotten bigger and stronger. But he is so football savvy. All a lot of kids know about football is from video games these days. But Xavier knows what is going on in the pro or college games.”
Poole said McIver has been recruited by ECU to play on the defensive interior line, but he is capable of working at end as well. “Xavier is the biggest steal in the 20-20 class,” Poole added.
McIver is one of four defensive linemen among ECU’s current 20 commitments in the Class of 2020. Although other schools continue to inquire about McIver, Poole expects he’ll stick to his pledge and sign with the Pirates in December.
“Xavier is a man of his word,” Poole said. “He really enjoyed that East Carolina felt like home. He has a close family that will be able to watch him play there and he knows he’ll be taken care of.”