As we hit the summer portion of the offseason, Touchdown Alabama Magazine will release a series of player spotlight pieces on starters and marquee contributors for the 2019 football season. In these articles, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each player, provide expectations for 2019, give NFL Draft projections for those who are eligible, and conclude with how each one can impact the team.
The 12th offensive player is Evan Neal.
Evan Neal’s attributes
-Position: Offensive Line
Summary: Ever since he dominated linebacker Nakobe Dean at Nike’s “The Opening” competition, people across the recruiting landscape have been high on Evan Neal.
Hailing from Okeechobee, Fla., the five-star offensive tackle received a lot of scholarship offer but chose to sign with Alabama. Along with receiving five stars via Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Neal was also given a diamond grade of two – meaning he has the potential to be an All-SEC or All-American caliber player.
The 6-foot-7, 360-pounder is an elite prospect at his position and one of the nation’s top high school players at any position from IMG Academy.
As an early enrollee back in January, Neal immediately showed signs of promise.
His power, strong hands and quick feet drew attention, while his athleticism and versatility had local reporters baffled throughout spring practice. His ability to play inside at guard and kick outside to tackle, without providing a decrease production, is impressive for someone his size.
Neal earned reps at left guard and left tackle in spring ball and though Alex Leatherwood will start for Alabama at left tackle, having Neal beside him would make for an easy decision to run off the left side of the line.
He is currently battling Emil Ekiyor Jr. for a chance to start at guard.
-None that are glaring
Summary: From watching him in spring, there are very little holes (if any) in Neal’s game.
He has to get experience under belt and that will come as the season makes its way in. Thus far, there is more positive than negative when dissecting Neal, but fall camp should provide more.
He will take the practice field starting on Friday, Aug. 2.
Expectations for 2019 season
Beating out Matt Womack for the starting job at right guard is the first of many expectations Neal has for this season. Womack has more game experience, but Neal’s size and potential has Alabama’s coaching staff excited on the possibility of having a dominate left and right side on the offensive line.
According to various articles, the Crimson Tide already has a more physical group than some National Football League teams and having Neal adds more confirmation.
Not saying he beats out Womack, but in the event that he does, earning a couple of individual honors from the coaching staff and national media would also be huge for Neal.
He has the talent to be SEC’s Lineman of the Year, make the conference’s All-Freshman Team and even be named a Freshman All-American. At the heart of him, Neal is a team first guy.
So, making sure he protects Tua Tagovailoa and provides all running backs with lanes to maneuver is highly important. Alabama lacked a 1,000-yard rusher in 2018 and the superstar in Neal looks to not have that occur again.
An opportunity to win the Joe Moore Award – presented to college football’s best offensive line – is definitely in the works for this year’s group. The Tide won the first-ever honor from the Joe Moore Foundation of Teamwork in 2015; however, it is set to have a much better unit in the fall.
Evan Neal was by far the best offensive lineman (tackle) prospect out of high school and in competitions from the 2019 recruiting cycle.
After seeing Alabama place names such as Andre Smith, Cyrus Kouandjio, Cam Robinson and Jonah Williams in the National Football League, Neal knows his chances of being a stalwart at offensive tackle are very high.
His versatility to kick inside makes it unfair for defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers to penetrate and affect the passing game. He’s a big deal when it comes to setting up the rushing attack too, seeing how Trey Sanders left IMG Academy to join Neal in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The task of getting the best five guys on the field and pushing them to work as one unit starts next Friday for Kyle Flood, as the offensive line coach kicks off his first fall camp with the Crimson Tide.
He comes over from the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and spent a lot of time at Rutgers University, but has an abundance of talent and some experience to mold this year.
For Neal, the stage for his takeover at Alabama is set.