LB Neal Still Considering Buckeyes After De-Commitment
By Brandon Castel
It has been a strange month for recruiting.
With a flurry of commitments from big-name prospects like Ezekial Elliott, Marcus Baugh, J.T. Barrett and Joey Bosa, it looked like Ohio State might be done with the 2013 class and on to 2014 by the summer.
If nothing else, they were certainly close to being done at linebacker, thanks to verbal commitments from Lewis Neal and Alex Anzalone. The Buckeyes were still trying to make a push for 4-star linebacker Jaylon Smith when Neal abruptly de-committed from Ohio State.
Anzalone was quick to follow, for completely different reasons, but neither player has ruled out the possibly of ending up at Ohio State when all is said and done.
“Coach Meyer told me they were still going to recruit me and wanted me to play for them,” Neal said told the Chicago Tribune.
“He said he will be happy with my decision. He asked me to call him once a week and, you know, I'm going to call him.”
Neal told Keith Niebuhr, the Southeast Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports, that his decision to de-commit from Ohio State was “personal,” but the Buckeyes are still in the picture.
He pulled the trigger on a commitment to OSU after visiting Columbus for the Buckeyes’ annual spring game on April 21.
“I got caught up in the weekend,” Neal explained to the Tribune.
“I rushed my commitment, and you can't rush into a big decision like that. I was supposed to be pumped, but I wasn't feeling it. But I still like them.”
One reason Neal wasn’t “feeling” his quick decision was the fact the North Carolina product was just starting to grab major attention as a defensive recruit out of Hunt High School in Wilson, N.C.
Not long after committing to the Buckeyes, Neal picked up a scholarship offer from LSU, the national runner-up from a year ago. He is also drawing interest from Alabama, the reigning BCS National Champions.
That is an intriguing prospect for the tweener who could play either defensive end or linebacker at the next level. There were four Crimson Tide players selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and another in Courtney Upshaw, who went early in the second round. It’s Upshaw, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker taken by the Baltimore Ravens, who might actually compare most accurately to Neal’s game.
“At 6-feet-1, 232 pounds, he wasn't among the biggest defensive ends on hand, yet he once again was unstoppable in large part because he simply was too fast for the player on the other side of the ball,” Niebuhr wrote after Sunday's Charlotte NIKE Football Training Camp.
“Neal re-directs in a flash, and used a strong inside move to win many of his reps. He also effectively used his hands and strength to shove offensive linemen and get them off balance.”
It was unsure exactly where Ohio State was planning to play Neal. He could be a good fit for the “Leo” spot, which is a hybrid end/linebacker position on Luke Fickell’s defense. He could also end up at Sam linebacker, or even inside at middle linebacker, depending on where Fickell and Mike Vrabel like his skill set best.
The one thing that is certain is that Meyer won’t stop recruiting Neal just because he decided to take a step back in his recruitment.
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