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November 4, 2001For some reason, two of the biggest topics on the Internet concerning A&M recruiting are:
1) Is Reggie McNeal a QB?
2) Will he remain committed to A&M?
Since McNeal committed during the summer and is A&M's only QB commitment, you would think there wouldn't be questions at all. The questions have persisted due to McNeal's passing stats (which are inferior to last year's) and the resulting speculation (not by Aggies) that McNeal would eventually wind up at another position at A&M. In turn, this would force McNeal to de-commit and start looking at other schools that would play him at QB.
Well, lets look at the first part of the equation, McNeal as a QB. Lufkin runs a pro style offense out of the I and spread (four WR) formations. This season Reggie is hitting 40% of his passes for less than seven yards an attempt with 11 TDs and 4 picks. Last year, he completed about 47% of his passes. He is hitting a higher percentage in district play (46%) with a much higher average per attempt (about 10 yards/attempt).
However, Lufkin only has one rusher among the district's top ten (Terry Williams with 84 carries for 367 yards) and McNeal himself is 12th. In addition, William's average per carry (4.37) is 19th among the top 20 rushers in the district with McNeal himself being 20th. Also, observers at last week's John Tyler game stated that his receivers dropped about five or six balls (two of them in the end zone). Therefore, it appears that more of the burden has fallen on him this season than last. Even so, Lufkin is averaging 33 points/game in district.
And yet, as McNeal proved Friday night in the Lufkin/Tyler Lee showdown for the District 12-5A title, numbers don't mean much with him.
But more on that later.
At this point in his career, Reggie's delivery is more sidearm than overhand and he has a tendency to drop his elbow and throw moreso with his wrist. I had noted this tendency during the state 7 on 7 tournament in the summer and it is something that will be corrected at the college level. During warm-ups, his delivery was compact, overhand, quick, and resulted in very good accuracy. Early in the game, drop back passes were utilized, his delivery reverted to being more sidearm, he threw moreso with his wrist, and some of his passes were high or wide. However, Lufkin began rolling Reggie out and his delivery improved markedly. Throwing on the move made McNeal square his shoulders, raise his elbow, and follow through much better than he did in the pocket. As a result, he was much more accurate and completed some darts to his WRs on pure rollouts.
However, there is MUCH more than just delivery to being a QB. McNeal throws one of the prettiest deep balls you'll ever see and he can toss it 60 yards almost effortlessly. Not only that, McNeal puts enough air under the ball so the intended receiver can adjust to it. Also, despite the fact McNeal is 10.3 sprinter, he looks to throw first and will take a sack trying to stand in the pocket and throw the football. Of course, when he does take off he is an extremely smooth runner and doesn't look like he is even working up a sweat. Finally, when things start to go wrong, McNeal is a very good decision-maker. He always looks to be in control of his emotions. In the first quarter, he was about to get sacked and made sure he threw the ball at the feet of one of his receivers so that he would not get called for intentional grounding. Twice he took sacks but in doing so made sure that the ball was protected so that he didn't fumble it.
But most of all, his intangibles and athleticism make McNeal a PLAYMAKER and maybe the best high school football player I've ever seen. Here are some examples:
- In the first half, he escapes from pressure by rolling to his left (he is right handed, mind you) and completes a 40 yard pass to Jermaine Parks at the left sideline to get Lufkin out of a huge hole near their own goaline.
-On a 3rd and 20 on Lufkin's first drive of the 2nd half, McNeal drops back and tosses the ball 60 yards in the air with plenty of air underneath so that WR Quentin Holman can come back to it. He catches it, makes the nearest defender miss, gets a block, and runs the rest of the way to complete an 87 yard TD.
-Lufkin runs a WR screen, then comes back two plays later and runs the same play except that it's a lateral and WR Terrance Mott throws it back across the field to McNeal. Reggie makes a guy miss, gets a couple of blocks, and completes a yard jaunt into the end zone.
-McNeal intercepts three passes playing about 10-15 plays as a safety. You know how some people seem to have a knack for finding the ball? Well, in Reggie's case, the ball seems to find HIM. One of his interceptions involved a tipped pass that came right to him and on the return he had so frustrated Tyler Lee that he took a shot out of bounds and drew a 15 yard penalty.
Overall, his stats were 8 of 25 for 195 yards and 1 TD passing, 1 25 yard reception for a TD, and 3 interceptions. But even these stats don't do justice to the fact that he was easily the best player on the field in the showdown for the District 12-5A title.
And herein lies the dilemma: it is very easy to project Reggie as a great WR or DB and he might even have more of an immediate impact at those positions. Even so, you want someone like Reggie at a position where he will be involved in every play and there is only one such position on the field: QB.
Another item: With everyone going to spread offenses, your QB had better be able to run like a second RB. If he can't, then you cannot outnumber the defense at the point of attack in the running game (please see Michael Bishop for reference purposes) which is why many one back attacks fail so bad. If the QB can run, the defense has to account for him. In the passing game, people are going to blitz you and your QB is going to have to get rid of the football quickly but still take a lot of hits. People will be more loathe to blitz a guy who can run a 10.3, run away from blitzers, and still have a 50 yard TD pass downfield.
Finally, if you need additional proof, just ask Texas A&M and other schools which continue to call him including Alabama, Notre Dame, and FSU. THEY'RE the experts, and they continue to recruit him as a QB.
End of discussion.
Now, let's talk about McNeal being an Aggie.
I talked to Reggie's dad before and after the game and he had the following quotes. (Mind you, his quotes were much more emphatic than what I am conveying in print).
-"I've always been a high school guy but I cannot wait until signing day. I've love the atmosphere at A&M. Best of all, it's only two hours from Lufkin".
-"Reggie and I cannot wait until February. The Aggie family has been tremendous to us".
-"I've heard a lot of things where people on the Internet are saying that Reggie isn't coming to A&M. You tell those people he's coming to A&M and that we can't wait until signing day".