Projecting the Future: LaDarrell McNeil

LaDARRELL MCNEIL, 6-1, 190 S DALLAS, TEXAS [WILMER-HUTCHINS HS]

Ratings: Rivals 4* No. 7 safety No. 86 overall player in the nation No. 11 player in Texas, Scout 4* No. 6 safety, ESPN 4* No. 12 cornerback No. 28 player in Texas, 247 4* No. 7 safety No. 115 overall player in the nation No. 14 player in Texas. Chose UT over Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona State, Arizona, Baylor, California, Clemson, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, TCU, Texas A&M, Southern Cal, Utah, others .

STRENGTHS: Listed at 4.52 speed, he is a heat-seeking missile who can deliver a huge blow to ball carriers once he arrives. He also has fundamentally sound tackling technique, and he plays with a lot of effort. He has great size, and he has played against elite competition and still shown out. He is a major coup for the Vols if he sticks with his commitment, and he has no fear punishing wide receivers whenever he gets the opportunity. Still can come up in the box and hold his own. Probably one of the top three overall players in UT's class.

NEEDS WORK: He doesn't appear the greatest in coverage. As for "needing work" this is a stretch because you can't work on it, but the Vols are holding their breath to National Signing Day as McNeil has courted with Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys remain a threat because of proximity. I'd like to see McNeil add 10-15 pounds, and he certainly has the frame to do it. Not sure if he's ready to contribute immediately, but he'll have to.

CREDENTIALS: McNeil was a U.S. Army All-American this year. Rivals lists only his freshman and junior statistics. As a freshman playing in a tough division, he had 89 tackles, eight TFLs, four sacks and four pass breakups. His junior year, McNeil finished with a remarkable 148 tackles, two sacks, three picks and 10 pass breakups. According to 247 Sports, McNeil finished this year with 124 tackles, a sack and an interception. He broke up 11 passes and forced four fumbles. He was an all-state selection in each of the past two years.

OPTIMISTIC CEILING: McNeil could become the Next Great UT Safety. I think he'll at least have the type of impact Brian Randolph had as a freshman, and the future is very bright for both of these guys. McNeil is much higher rated, and once he learns where he needs to be on the field, the sky is the limit. UT will try desperately to hang onto his commitment. He has the ability to step in immediately and play if Brent Brewer isn't ready to return from his knee injury. If he goes elsewhere, not only will the Vols not have an able body to fill that role, they'll be losing out on a player with the potential to be an All-American and a Jackson/Berry type talent.

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