Alabama Crimson Tide: Josh McNeil

TE McNeil ready to let Tide roll away 

December, 30, 2012
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -– ESPN 150 prospect Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Milford Academy) admits it was a difficult situation when the tight end parted ways with Alabama. However it looks like another SEC program will be there to pick up the pieces.

Howard enjoys in-home visit from Saban 

December, 20, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- ESPN 150 tight end O.J. Howard (Prattville, Ala./Autauga Academy) has been committed to Alabama for over a year, and he’s as firm as ever with the decision. Still, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban wanted to make an in-home visit with Howard and his family before the in-state recruit enrolls at UA.

Last week, Saban stopped by his school to talk with the football coach and the principal before going over to Howard’s house to spend time with his family.

“It was great,” Howard said. “Coach had fun and talked with everybody. He had a blast. He came out here and said it was like back where he’s from -- West Virginia, the country -- but he said where he’s from is more country than where I’m from. He enjoyed it, and we enjoyed him.”

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TE Josh McNeil decommits from Bama 

December, 20, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It’s the end of the Tide Towers.

On Thursday, ESPN 150 tight end Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Milford) announced that he decommitted from Alabama, ending the possibility of he and fellow four-star tight end O.J. Howard ever playing together for the Crimson Tide.

The reason Alabama and McNeil parted ways comes from an academic issue that stems from his ninth grade year, according to McNeil’s high school coach, Antonio King.

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Tracking the Tide: Michael Williams

December, 20, 2012
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at tight end Michael Williams.

No. 89 Michael Williams
Tight end
21 receptions, 166 yards, 3 touchdowns

Role in 2012: Williams was the Crimson Tide's best and arguably only reliable option at tight end this season.

The good: The redshirt senior didn't jump off the screen, but he was consistent. As he has been his entire career since moving to offense, Williams was an above-average blocker with just enough skill in space to be a threat in the passing game. He was fourth on the team with 21 receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. But his worth is also measured in Alabama's success running the football. Both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon were able to rush for 1,000 yards this season thanks in no small part to Williams' efforts.

The bad: Williams never developed into the receiving threat some might have hoped for when he transitioned from defensive end to tight end. Despite having the frame (6-foot-6, 269 pounds) and athleticism (coach Nick Saban touted his skills on the basketball court) that can cause matchup problems with both linebackers and defensive backs, Williams didn't become a weapon in the way of a poor man's Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten.

Crystal ball: Because of his skill in the running game, Williams should find a home in the NFL. He's arguably one of the best blocking tight ends in all of college football, which is something scouts and general managers value when looking for backups. As far as the question of who will step up next year, the answer is wide open. Neither sophomores Harrison Jones or Brian Vogler have separated themselves this season. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Faciane has played and has a frame (6-foot-5, 259 pounds) to grow into. Another option might be moving wide receiver Marvin Shinn inside to tight end. The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman would have to put on weight, but he already has played some snaps at the position early in the season. Keep an eye on two Alabama commitments to make an impact right away: O.J. Howard is the No. 2 tight end prospect in the country and Josh McNeil isn't far behind at No. 4 in the ESPN 150.

The O-zone: Fitting the pieces together 

December, 19, 2012
TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.

Staying home?

ESPN 150 wide receiver Robert Foster is set to make his decision on Friday between Alabama and Pittsburgh. Many people believe the Pennsylvania native is leaning toward staying close to home and playing for the Panthers, but don’t count out the Crimson Tide just yet. His father wants him to play at Alabama so he can one day play for a national championship. He also enjoyed his official visit to Tuscaloosa during the season, so much so that he nearly committed the week after. More than anything, he felt comfortable when he was in Alabama. The news of wide receiver Eldridge Massington’s commitment to UCLA late Tuesday night could also be an indicator that the UA staff feels a little more confident about Foster than they’re leading on. Foster indicated to ESPN’s Jared Shanker this week that he’s already made up his mind. He’s just waiting to go public with the decision.

Spot available

Sources say that ESPN 150 tight end Josh McNeil will not qualify for Alabama, which opens up a scholarship for the Tide to offer in the 2013 class. McNeil visited LSU over the weekend, but it’s more likely that he ends up going the junior college route. There were academic issues before he committed but Alabama took a chance on him, hoping he get it resolved by going up to Milford Academy in New York. With McNeil now off the board, the Tide have turned their attention to Arkansas tight end commitment Hunter Henry. Henry says the UA coaches have been by to see him nearly every week for the last month. He took his official visit to Alabama in November and plans to take one to Arkansas in January.

Safety help

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Recruit reaction: SEC championship 

December, 3, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama is headed to its third national championship in four years after an epic clash with Georgia in the SEC championship.

The instant classic made an impression on the top recruits as well.

ATH Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee): “I thought it was a good game. I thought it was one of the best SEC championships that I’ve seen. Both teams fought to the end, and I love seeing something like that. I love seeing both teams hungry for a win. I thought both teams fought really hard.

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ESPN 150 TE McNeil checks out Alabama 

November, 12, 2012
Josh McNeil committed to Alabama in July. Despite a loss to Texas A&M, that decision was reaffirmed during his official visit to Tuscaloosa this weekend.

"The visit was good," the ESPN 150 tight end from Durham (N.C.) Milford said on Monday. "It was what I expected and much more. The atmosphere that Alabama has is crazy.

"It helped me make my decision even more."

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Weekend Rewind: Alabama 

November, 12, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama came up short on the field against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Saturday, but off the field, the Crimson Tide enjoyed a successful weekend with a number of top recruits in town for the game. It was the Tide’s biggest recruiting weekend of the season to date.

The most notable visitor in Tuscaloosa was five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), who was accompanied by his mother on the trip. From all accounts, the visit went great and bolstered the Tide’s chances with the ESPN 150 star. Tunsil recently named Alabama and Georgia as his top two schools.

During the weekend, UA hosted just two official visitors: a pair of ESPN 150 tight ends, Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski) and Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Milford Academy). McNeil is already committed to the Tide, but for Henry, an Arkansas commitment, the trip gave him something to think about.

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TE Henry committed to Hogs, visits Bama 

November, 11, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Despite having two tight ends already committed for 2013, Alabama continues to recruit the position, and over the weekend, the Crimson Tide hosted ESPN 150 tight end and Arkansas commitment Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski Academy) on his official visit.

[+] EnlargeHunter Henry
Scott Drucker/IntersportHunter Henry is committed to Arkansas but was impressed by his visit to Alabama.
“It went great,” Henry said. “It was a great visit, and I had a really good time. The result of the game wasn’t what everyone wanted, but in the end, it was a really good visit.”

It was the first time Henry had been to a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and although the Tide came up short against Texas A&M, the game itself was the highlight of his trip.

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Henry tops Bama commits in ESPN 150 

November, 7, 2012
Alabama’s newest commitment, four-star athlete Derrick Henry, just so happens to be the Crimson Tide’s top-ranked recruit in the latest ESPN 150.

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SEC teams battle for ATH Greg Taboada 

September, 13, 2012
Although he is trying his best to focus on his final high school football season, ESPN 150 athlete Greg Taboada (Atlanta/Marist) admits his recruitment is lingering in the back of his mind. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior, who plays tight end and defensive end, had just spoken to several coaches from a program making a big push for his commitment.

“I was one the phone with the Vanderbilt offensive staff 30 minutes ago,” Taboada said. “In the past month they have made me feel really important to their class. They need a tight end to spread the field and they seem really excited about the possibility of adding me to the great group of talent they have already committed this year. They are going in the right direction, and they just need to continue to add the kind of depth they have lacked before. I think they will get to that point in the next year or two.”

The Commodores have made Taboada, the No. 110 prospect in the country, a priority, and that has them in a position rarely seen in recruiting: running neck and neck with the defending BCS champions.

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Changing the game: Howard and McNeil 

August, 15, 2012
The tight end position is constantly evolving in the game of football.

[+] EnlargeO.J. Howard
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comO.J. Howard (above) and Josh McNeil might be future offensive threats for the Tide.
From Tony Gonzalez to Antonio Gates to Vernon Davis, the big, athletic, pass-catching tight ends are becoming the new trend in the National Football League, and it was never more apparent than last season with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots.

The duo combined for 218 receptions, 3,053 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2011. Gronkowski alone had 1,585 yards and 20 touchdowns, setting single-season records in both categories at the tight end position.

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Scouts: Bama rebounds with McNeil 

July, 21, 2012
Just a few days earlier Alabama lost out on a top tight end when Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski) chose to stay in-state and committed to Arkansas, but the Crimson Tide rebounded very nicely and landed a verbal from another ESPN 150 tight end Friday night when Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Hillside) committed. Henry is a more experienced and more polished prospect at this point, but by landing McNeil, Alabama got a prospect with nice upside and arguably a higher ceiling for development who with some work should be a nice fit for them.

McNeil displays a lot of natural ability, but will very likely be a prospect who needs some developmental time when he hits Tuscaloosa as his senior year will only be his second of high school football. While still a bit raw and unpolished in areas this is a prospect who demonstrates the tools to grow into a very good and well-rounded college tight end. He is a basketball kid who has nice overall size and room for further physical development which should come with some time in the Tide’s weight program. He can be a productive part of the passing attack as he possesses good hands and with a nice reach and good body control he offers a nice catch radius. He needs development as a route runner and to learn to become a more efficient runner, but he can get into his routes quickly, has some speed, and flashes the ability to be able to pick-up some extra yards after the catch. He also has experience as an in-line blocker which is key and he demonstrates the ability to develop into a productive player in the phase which he will need to be in that offense.

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McNeil commits to Alabama

July, 21, 2012
After losing a commitment from Andy Dodd earlier in the day, the University of Alabama responded by adding a commitment from ESPN 150 tight end Josh McNeil, the No. 4-ranked tight end in the country.

McNeil, a native of Durham, N.C., visited Tuscaloosa on Thursday and Friday before making his decision public via Twitter late Friday night.

The 6-foot-5, 226-pound McNeil gives the Crimson Tide 17 verbal commitments in the 2013 class and a potentially dangerous tight end combination with O.J. Howard, the No. 2 tight end, already on board.

As a junior at Hillside High School, McNeil caught 58 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns. It was his first year playing football. He chose Alabama over the likes of Florida, Georgia, Miami and Washington State.

The O-zone: July 11 

July, 11, 2012
TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.

In this week’s update:

  • Foster, Matthews plan visits
  • McNeil delays decision

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Tide RB dismissed following pot charge
Alex Scarborough discusses whether the recent arrests of Alabama football players Tyren Jones, Jonathan Taylor and Geno Smith indicate the school has an issue with how it handles student-athletes accused of breaking the law.