BRADENTON, Fla. — Five-star IMG Academy offensive lineman Evan Neal is down more than 30 pounds from his high of 390-plus this winter.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt as a player. My goal weight is about 320-325, so I still got a lot of work to do.”
Pro players often train or rehab at the Academy. Neal said that NFL offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga (6’5, 314) told a trainer back in the spring that if he was an NFL team, he would not draft Neal because of his weight. Neal said that having a lineman already in the NFL say that motivated him, because Bulaga knows what it takes to get there to the highest level.
“If he says he wouldn’t draft me, obviously I’m doing something wrong, and I gotta get right.”
The main thing for Neal has been watching what he eats. He is now much slimmer than he was in the photo above from February. It helped him dominate opposing defensive ends at The Opening Finals in Dallas earlier in July.
Neal isn’t visiting anywhere before his season starts
Neal said that IMG players are not allowed to visit schools in the last weekend of July because IMG is starting camp. (Some players have said they are still going to visit). Schools across the country are trying to get him to visit.
Neal did say that if he was allowed to visit anywhere this weekend, it would be Alabama or Florida State. Many in the recruiting industry, and his teammates believe Neal is trending back to the Tide, where he was once committed.
“Alabama, Miami, Florida, Florida State; the Southern Schools,” he said when asked which he likes, declining to name a leader.
Neal will decide during or shortly after his season
And because he is an early enrollee, he is going to need to take most or all of his official visits during the season. Neal says that those visits will be in the Southeast, and maybe one to the West Coast.
On Alabama: “Nick Saban keeps winning National Championships,” that’s the pitch, Neal said of Alabama.
On FSU: Neal said that he wants to get back to Tallahassee, and that him not getting back to Tallahassee is not due to a lack of desire, but rather scheduling conflicts. Neal said that coach Raymond Woodie told him something about FSU having part of its spring practice at IMG, but that it doesn’t mean much to him.
On Miami: “Miami is really high on my list, and extremely high on my mom’s list. Everybody knows that.,” Neal said. “If it was up to her, I’d already be committed there. They’re a great program, and I grew up a Canes fan, I had family that played for the Hurricanes.”
But Mom can’t get him to commit just yet?
“She’s on my about it, man, but it’s a decision I have to make. I want to take my time with it and not jump the gun.”
Early playing time is not an important factor
“I feel like I can get early playing time anywhere. Wherever I go, I know I’ll have to work for my position, be it Miami, or even Alabama,” Neal said. “I’m not the type of dude to look at a program just because they have an open slot to start as a freshman.”
It’s great to see Neal is now in shape, because he can be a dominant factor. I’d be shocked if he ended up anywhere by Alabama, Miami, or maybe Florida State. Most I speak with think he’ll end up at Alabama or Miami, but he does keep mentioning an intention to get back to FSU. And while he maintains that early playing time is not a factor, the latter two schools can offer a legitimate chance to start as a true freshman.