Caleb McCullough was all over the field last week in Oxnard Pacifica High’s 38-7 win over Santa Barbara High. He had 10 tackles, two hurries on quarterback Deacon Hill, a Wisconsin commit, and two blocked punts.
McCullough’s galvanic presence on the field has Pacifica unbeaten (4-0) and a favorite to win the Pacific View League this season. His play-making ability and the addition of more than 40 pounds since his sophomore year has made McCullough one of the top linebackers in the Southland.
He credits his father, Bryant, for the weight gain and for helping him become a top prospect. He was a relative unknown when he was 160 pounds his sophomore year, but the 6-foot-2 senior now weighs 203 pounds and tackles everything in sight.
McCullough had 211 tackles last season, according to MaxPreps, averaging more than 16 tackles per game.
“I just kept eating a lot. My dad was forcing me to eat 24/7 and I was lifting and stuff like that,” said the nation’s No. 19 outside linebacker in 247Sports’ rankings. “It’s a big difference. I got faster too when I added the weight. It makes it easier because you don’t get thrown around a lot.”
Instead it was ball carriers and scholarship offers being thrown around. Arizona State extended the first scholarship opportunity on Jan. 24. McCullough has since gotten 19 more offers.
He was not surprised by the lack of offers earlier in his high school career. “I didn’t have a good sophomore season,” McCullough said. “I had to work, get good.”
He waited patiently, expecting to hear from colleges his senior season. He was caught off guard this spring when scholarships starting rolling in.
“I am surprised that I got USC and all of those Pac-12. I didn’t know if I would. After my junior season, I didn’t think I was going to, not until my senior season at least,” McCullough said. “The feeling was great, especially the USC one.
“Growing up watching USC while you’re a young child and then seeing all the great players coming out of there, knowing that’s really the best offer you can get coming from a California kid.”
McCullough earned his offer from the Trojans after attending their invite-only Elite Camp in June. He also took in the Trojans’ 45-20 win over Stanford.
“I don’t know if it’s just the tradition around USC or just the vibe. It just feels different,” McCullough said. “I know Bryce Young just decommitted from there. I feel like a lot of athletes they’re not really feeling USC. I don’t know why. I liked it a lot. It’s a really good school.”
Nebraska is another school McCullough is high on. He took his first official visit, checking out Lincoln when the Cornhuskers beat Northern Illinois two weeks ago.
“I really love Nebraska. I love what they’ve got going,” he said. “I feel like they’re going uphill. That coaching staff what they did [at Central Florida], I feel like pretty soon they’re going to be doing that at Nebraska.”
McCullough has an official visit scheduled to Boise State in October. He has checked out UCLA multiple times and took a trip to Arizona State during the offseason. He plans to schedule one or two more official visits, but said he doubts he’ll use an official to visit either Los Angeles school since he’s close enough to stop by whenever he wants.
He’s looking for a program to help develop him as a person and a player. He feels like he is a versatile defender who can do a lot, but has a lot of room for growth.
“I’m sitting down with my parents, really praying, seeing where is the best fit for me,” McCullough said. “I especially want to go to a program that has found their identity. I don’t want to be in a program that’s really searching for who they are. I want a program that is going to help me as a player to excel and get better as a leader and all that.”