With fall practice in full swing for Alabama football, the staff for Touchdown Alabama Magazine will release a series of player spotlight pieces on starters and marquee contributors for the 2020 football season.
In these articles, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each player, provide expectations for 2020, give NFL Draft projections for those who are eligible, and conclude with how each one can impact the team.
-Position: Offensive Tackle (Right tackle)
-Weight: 355 pounds
-2019 stats: Blocked for 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)
-Run blocking (Strong hands)
Summary: He has lived up to his grade of two diamonds from Justin Smith of Touchdown Alabama Magazine, in terms of Evan Neal being “all-conference and Top 25 NFL Draft pick” type of player. As a five-star from Florida, he arrived in Alabama’s 2019 signing class. Neal came as an offensive tackle, but his starting career took on the same form as Alex Leatherwood’s tenure.
A fellow Floridian, Leatherwood emerged on campus in 2017 but started 15 games at right guard in 2018.
Neal proved he could work in a phone booth last season, as he blocked for college football’s No. 2 scoring offense (47.2 ppg), No. 3 passing offense (342.2 ypg) and No. 6 total offense (510.8 ypg).
At left guard, he was on an offensive unit that allowed 12 sacks in 406 pass attempts while pushing Najee Harris to a 1,000-yard rushing campaign (1,224) with 13 touchdowns.
His efforts led to him earning Freshman All-American honors from multiple outlets, and SEC All-Freshman team from the league’s coaches.
During the offseason, Alabama decided to move Neal to his natural position as an offensive tackle.
The 6-foot-7, 355-pounder has exceptional length, footwork and athleticism.
He performed a box jump at his size during the summer, and Tide fans marveled at his execution.
Neal has powerful hands in run-blocking; however, his length will make it difficult for edge rushers to get to the quarterback. Having success at guard provides him with versatility and his coordination in space is second to none.
No linebacker or defensive back wants to be on an island against Neal on screen plays. He loves to run and with the talent Alabama has, the sophomore will be running.
-No glaring weakness
Summary: Although there is not a glaring weakness in Neal’s game, the thought of how productive he will be at tackle is a good one to have. He has not played the position since his days at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), but the transition back has been smooth. Alabama wants everyone on its front line to be versatile, as it looks to get the best five players on the field.
For Neal, he just needs to be consistent at right tackle.
Expectations for 2020 season
Aside from the team goal of winning a national championship, Neal would like to help the Crimson Tide capture a Joe Moore Award and earn some individual accolades. He’s prepared to assist Mac Jones to big numbers at quarterback, and possibly clear the way for two 1,000-yard rushers. If he can get his hands on the Outland Trophy or SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy, it would suffice for Neal. Overall, this season he wants to dominate the opposition and help the program get back on top.
Neal is a very explosive lineman.
He has a chance to be one of the best to come through the program and he intends to do it. Coach Saban has never had two bookends on the offensive line, but he has it now in Leatherwood and Neal.
Everyone is looking forward to watching Neal take the next step as a playmaker and leader.
*Get the BEST Alabama football insider information, message board access, and recruiting coverage today! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our subscriber only content!*