Diaz: Our team isn’t far from competing for championships
Most of Westley Neal’s weekend was spent in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have long been one of the most persistent suitors for the three-star defensive tackle, so Neal decided to finally go check out the school for the first time from Friday through Sunday and was a little surprised how much he liked the campus.
Still, as soon as he touched down back in South Florida on Sunday, Neal hopped in a car and made his way down to Coral Gables to watch his Gulliver teammates win a 7-on-7 tournament inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility at a Manny Diaz Football Camp. The Miami Hurricanes had just made him an offer six days earlier, so Neal wanted to get back to campus to see his self-professed “dream school.”
“They’re showing major love,” Neal said Sunday. “Like a lot of love.”
Neal waited a long time for June 3. The 6-foot-1, 317-pound defensive lineman from Gulliver Prep has been a major Miami fan since he was 7 and attending camps at the school since his freshman year, hoping to catch the attention of the Hurricanes’ defensive coaches.
Miami has always been cognizant of the work Neal was putting in to get an offer from his hometown school. With his senior season just a few months away, Neal finally got what he was looking for when co-defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda, who recruits the part of part of Miami where Gulliver is, called him to offer a scholarship.
“I couldn’t believe it at first. I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s a dream come true,’” Neal said. “He was saying that, ‘I know you came to a lot of camps. We know you’re a hard-working person and you worked hard to get this offer,’ and then he was like, ‘We’re going to offer you a full scholarship.’”
Although he’s only the No. 49 defensive tackle in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2020, Neal is a four-star prospect in the Rivals.com rankings and a rare athlete for his size. At The Opening Miami regional in February in Davie, Neal posted a score of 97.83 in SPARQ Testing, which placed him among the most athletic defensive tackles who competed at any of The Opening regionals across the United States. Neal, who also plays some guard, ran a 40-yard dash in 5.29 seconds, ran a 20-yard shuttle in 4.83 seconds, logged a vertical jump of 26.7 inches and notched a power toss of 41 feet.
Neal also competed at the state track and field championships in the shot put and the discus throw and he leads a junior season highlight reel with a still image showing him dunking a basketball on an apparent regulation hoop. Athletically, Neal gives the Hurricanes and Banda a lot to work with.
“I’m aggressive and I know I’m not that tall, but I play like I’m 6-4,” Neal said, “so he likes that about me, especially to clog up that middle. I can help them out.”
Neal didn’t compete in the lineman camp Sunday, but the senior will be back later this month so Miami coaches, including new defensive line coach Todd Stroud, can evaluate him one more time. Banda has already given Neal the invitation to compete at the marquee recruiting event June 22.
“He told me to come to Paradise and just work for like a good hour,” Neal said, “and then we should be good.”