Under Head Coach Will Muschamp, I always expect the Florida Gators defense to produce, especially the defensive backs.
Primarily, I think that Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson all provide excellent coaching.
Secondly, I believe that those three names will attract the top talent in the country, every single year. This year, it is no different.
South Sumter High School safety Keanu Neal is one of the new additions and he will continue to carry the torch at the safety position, which for the past seven or so years, has been one of the top units in the country every year. Neal hopes to join the ranks of elite Florida Gator safeties’ Reggie Nelson, Major Wright, Ahmad Black, and Matt Elam. And looking at Neal’s tape, he very well could be a two-three year starter for the Gators.
Neal, who was an Under Armour All-American, was ranked as a 4-star prospect by ESPN, and the 6th and 7th best safety in the country, according to ESPN and Rivals respectively. Neal projects to likely start at the free safety position.
At 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, Neal has great size and has the build to contribute in the SEC immediately. One of the most prevalent things you notice in Neal’s game is that he plays the run and pass both extremely well. Scouts have ranted and raved about Neal since his performance at “The Opening” in summer 2012 and then again at the Under Armour All-American game.
Their biggest compliment was that he played very physically and seemed to “ball hawk”, always finding a way to be around the ball. He has great football instincts and reacts quickly to each and every play. With his size, Neal hits like a train and has the speed to quickly disrupt a play.
His speed also allows him to cover well in man-to-man coverage, although he seems to do better in zone coverage. Because of Neal’s size, it is easy to underestimate his speed and athleticism. Due to this, many offenses make a mistake by trying to beat him over the top, a decision they quickly regret.
Furthermore, it is clear with Neal that he has a great football IQ. Neal reacts quickly to plays, takes great angles, and knows the importance of good, solid fundamentals that put him in a position to make big plays consistently.
Neal has the size, speed, athleticism, and physicality to come in and be an early contributor for the Gators. It is also likely Neal will end of playing in the NFL one day. In 2013, I see Neal being a big contributor to special teams, as well as, a somewhat regular contributor on defense. In 2014, Neal could easily fight for a starting safety spot as the Gators lose both starters at the safety spots.
Keanu Neal Senior Highlights: