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After missing first press conference, Neal picks Irish

Feb 21, 2012, 5:33 PM EDT

Davonte Neal AZ

With 600 grade schoolers assembled at Kyrene de la Esperanza elementary school, the finish line to Davonte Neal‘s recruitment was in sight. But with Fox Sports’ Arizona affiliate broadcasting the proceedings on the internet, a funny thing happened: Neal didn’t show up.

And so continued a recruitment that’s been both the very best and very worst of college football’s silly season. Neal, one of the truly elite players in the country and the player of the year in Arizona, decided to delay his decision three weeks past Signing Day, calling a press conference at his former grade school to pay tribute to the place where it all started for him. The optimistic side of a college football fan applauds Neal’s decision to take his time and focus first on another state championship run for his Chaparral squad, getting to his college choice after his obligation to his high school teammates was complete. The pessimist sees just another example of an elite player waiting out the herd, reveling in the attention of being the last big name on the recruiting board, reliving the role of a petulant child hiding his final Christmas present, waiting to open it until all the attention was squarely on him.

Either way, four hours later than the announced 9:30 presser, Notre Dame received a fax from one of its most heralded prospects, a dynamic offensive threat that’ll help ease the sting of missing out on Deontay Greenberry. In a bizarre waiting game that rankled more than a few, Neal’s self-imposed press extravaganza didn’t go off as planned because of a reported family rift. Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic reported that Neal was at odds with his father Luke, with the elder wanting his son to play for the Irish, while Davonte favored staying close to home and his mother.

However things shook out, this time the fax came to South Bend. Landing Neal is a major recruiting victory for Brian Kelly, who spoke more than once with Davonte in the past 24 hours. The Irish will immediately upgrade their return game, not to mention add a player that can make an impact in both the run and pass game.

“Deciding on a college is one of the toughest decisions a young player makes in his life, so we are very pleased with Davonte’s decision to attend Notre Dame,” Kelly said in a statement. “Davonte was an electric playmaker in high school and was capable of making the big play any time he had the ball in his hands. He excelled as a receiver, as a running back and as a returner for Coach (Charlie) Ragle at Chaparral High School. I imagine we’ll use him in a similar fashion here.”

Neal’s commitment finalizes the 2012 recruiting class, a roller-coaster ride if there ever was one. After missing out on top prospects like Greenberry, Ronald Darby, Arik Armstead, Nelson Agholor, and Brian Poole, landing Neal is a much-needed victory for the coaching staff that worked tirelessly. Neal will enroll this summer and joins wide receivers Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson in the recruiting class.

  1. 1historian - Feb 22, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Davonte Neal is coming to Notre Dame.


    Let’s move on

  2. schuey73 - Feb 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Check out this post announcement interview. To me he comes across as intelligent, sincere, and very confident in his abilities and his decision to attend ND.


    • nudeman - Feb 22, 2012 at 4:34 PM

      Impressive, I agree. Bright, well spoken and sounds solid in his decision.

      Living in the area here, this is consistent with what I’ve heard about him. Good kid, feet firmly on the ground, good teammate, etc.

      Sounds like he’ll do well at ND

  3. sullyp18 - Feb 22, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    I dont know what interview you all are watching but it seemed to me like he was just trying to cover the fact that he really wanted to go to UofA. Happy his dad won this one.

    • nudeman - Feb 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM

      Well he confirmed what many of us thought was going on:

      Dad was thinking big picture (ND education) and he was thinking small picture (playing with his buds at UA).

      To me, the most important thing was his unambiguous affirmation that ND is where he wants to be. Probably a small part of him wishes he could hang with his homies in Tucson, but when he gets to SB and his new teammates, that will no longer be an issue. I hope.

  4. heartofgoldandblue - Feb 22, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    I agree Nudes
    He’ll be fine, I have reservations about what to order for dinner sometimes but once I bite in I’m fine.
    As to whether he would be better suited for D….you can make a case either way. IMO he can step right in and compete at CB at which I think he could be a standout cover guy and is a major position of need. As for offense, we do have a lot of slot guys but this guy’s a home run threat EVERYTIME he touches the ball. There is no way he can be on the sideline while the offense is on the field. If there’s anyone who can make a case for playing two ways (three if you count ST) he’s the guy. I’m no expert but I watch a lot of film on all these recruits and I haven’t seen anyone who’s as dominant from a skill player standpoint. I wouldn’t let this kid of the field.

    • nudeman - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      He could – I think – start at CB and return punts and make an offensive cameo day 1.
      Would get his hands on the ball 4-5 times/game minimum, and plug a big hole on D.

      And don’t forget, ND is better than OK at slot.
      Russell from the Northwest is coming in; they’ve got Farley and Toma.
      And GA III if they put him there.

      Is Neal the most explosive of the group? Probably.
      But it sure would be nice to see a couple corners who can cover someone and turn around for the ball when a pass is thrown their way. He and Tee would be a great pair.

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