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Alabama OL Evan Neal displays incredible plyo vertical, impresses David Ballou and Matt Rhea

Evan Neal in his stance for 2019 game versus South Carolina
Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Since 2009, the University of Alabama football program has had seven offensive linemen taken in the first round of the NFL Draft — including five that went as offensive tackles.

Despite Jedrick Wills being the latest name to enter and Alex Leatherwood expected to be a first-rounder in the 2021 venue, keep all eyes on Evan Neal as the Crimson Tide’s next elite tackle.

Nick Saban has been known for his production of running backs, wide receivers, defensive backs and linebackers in the National Football League, but he has also done very well with getting offensive linemen to the next level.

A native of Okeechobee, Fla., Neal chose Alabama over Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Oklahoma as a five-star in the 2019 signing class.

Justin Smith, the lead scouting/recruiting analyst for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, saw a lot in Neal on the recruiting trail. The 6-foot-7, 360-pounder earned a diamond grade of two, which means Neal projects as an “all-conference player and a top-25 NFL Draft pick.” To Smith’s credit, Neal has proven him right. He started all 13 games as a true freshman last season at left guard, helping an offensive unit that allowed just 12 sacks in 406 pass attempts.

Neal surrendered only one sack himself, while he earned Freshman All-American honors (USA Today, ESPN and Football Writers Association of America) and Freshman All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches. Not only was he strong in pass protection, but Neal was also an exceptional run blocker. He guided Najee Harris to his first career 1,000-yard rushing season (1,224) and aided Brian Robinson Jr. to his best numbers thus far with 441 yards and five touchdowns. With Neal, the Tide boasted the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense (47.2 ppg), No. 3 passing offense (342.2 ypg) and No. 6 total offense (510.8 ypg).

As a sophomore, he is in position to move to his natural spot at tackle.

On Wednesday, Dr. Matt Rhea posted a video to Twitter of Neal’s insane athleticism and coordination on a plyo jump at 300+ pounds.

For the team’s Director of Performance Science, Rhea has known Neal since he was 14.

He and David Ballou, Alabama’s Director of Sports Performance, were both coaches at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) from 2015 to 2016.

The two work closely together, even though their strengths are different. Rhea is more connected with speed, flexibility and injury prevention, while Ballou is strength training. In being proud of Neal’s progress, Ballou shared on Twitter that he has changed his body and his power profile is at 83 and climbing.

Per Ballou, Neal has a ‘bright future’ ahead of him.

Saban will have one of the best — if not the best —  offensive lines in college football this fall.

He has to get the best five guys on the field, and moving Neal to right tackle would be his best decision.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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