McNeil recently spoke with SB Nation about Alabama and other schools running the pro-style offense. McNeil cited the opportunity to play right away and NFL development as reasons for considering those programs. McNeil is physically impressive in that he is long and athletic, but he still very much looks like a basketball player. He is very raw as a football player. "I played basketball and haven't lifted football weights yet. That's one of my things, I gotta hit the weight room hard this summer," McNeil said. McNeil joins Alabama commitment O.J. Howard to form the best pair of tight end commitments nationally. Howard is rated as the top tight end in the country.
Without Dodd and five-star linebacker Reuben Foster, who flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn last week, Alabama's 2013 commitment class, which ranks third in nation on 247Sports.com and 10th on Rivals.com, stands at 16. All but three of those players are four-star recruits or better, according to 247Sports' rankings. Dodd's flip leaves the Crimson Tide with three commitments from offensive linemen for the 2013 class: Grant Hill (Huntsville), Bradley Bozeman (Handley) and Leon Brown (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
Earlier in the week, Alabama held its second major prospect camp of the summer and welcomed a number of currently committed prospects, along with a handful of elite uncommitted prospects. Among Alabama's top targets at the event was Jacksonville (Fla.) defensive end DeMarcus Walker, a four-star pass rusher. Walker is rated as one of the nation's top defensive linemen by the major recruiting services. He has been a major priority for the Florida Gators as well as Auburn but according to an interview with BamaOnline, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound star said he has developed a special relationship with Saban. "We'll mess around and crack jokes at each other," Walker said of Saban. "A lot of people are shocked to see him smile and play around. I was talking to his secretary and they were saying how he usually doesn't do that. I know they were saying that, but they swore up and down that everything changes when I come around."
For Saban, the experience and leadership of Square and fellow defensive lineman Jesse Williams will play a huge role in how the defense performs. "I think everything starts up front," Saban said. "Even though we'll have some new linebackers, I think those front guys can make the linebackers' job a little easier if they do the things they're capable of doing." Square didn't shy away from the pressure, however. Indeed, he said he was ready to embrace the role of leading the unit that will be the lynchpin for the defense. "Oh, no doubt," Square said. "If you have to choose your experience, you want your experience to be up front. The game starts up front. If you can't stop somebody on the line of scrimmage, you don't really have a game to play."
Saban said he would keep much of the BCS intact for criteria to help guide members of a selection committee. "To me, it would be foolish not to use that sort of knowledge and experience in it to sort of try to come up with some criteria that the committee uses to make a choice, because I think that's the fair way to do it," he said. "There's no bias in that."
Inside Ballroom C of the Wynfrey Hotel, a venerable lodging establishment attached to a shopping mall in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, Slive declared the state of his conference to be really unbelievably awesomely blissfully wonderful, and with that the platitude-a-palooza known as SEC football media days had officially begun. Over three days and just as many free lunches, 14 coaches and 42 football players took turns answering a litany of questions ranging from insightful to insipid, a great many of which appeared to have been scripted by Stephen Colbert himself: SEC: Great conference, or the greatest conference? There was something awe-inspiring about the spectacle, about all these people gathered in rooms adorned with paintings of cherubs and angels and enchanted forests, while tacky chandeliers in the shape of CGI aliens shed light from above; about the endless supply of Golden Flake dill-pickle-flavored potato chips1 and Dr Pepper; about the table full of promotional brochures for Chick-fil-A and an all-new SEC tailgating cookbook; about the long tail of radio row downstairs, where "The Pressbox" and "The Game" and "The Deuce" and approximately 67 outposts of ESPN radio killed time by debating the vagaries of the Egg Bowl; about the handful of hyperobsessive fans in the lobby, contained to a bullpen area by green safety ropes near a sign that screamed NO AUTOGRAPHS; about the giant room of print hacks and two rooms stacked three-deep with TV cameras, not to mention the rooms occupied by various ESPN and SEC Network and CBS talent, hundreds upon hundreds of us live-tweeting inscrutable quotes ("I don't expect the expectations to drop at all") to the masses. It was all sunshine and bluster down here, a celebration of perhaps the last institution in America that seems to have transcended 21st-century decline.
Ever since he became the head coach at Alabama in 2007, Saban has been the star attraction at Media Days. Nearly 1,000 crimson-clad Alabama fans will wait for hours in the hotel lobby hoping for an autograph or merely a sighting of their beloved coach. This year was no different, as on Thursday Saban, escorted by three state troopers, walked through the lobby, causing the 'Bama faithful to fall into a fever. Saban then experienced something that his predecessor, Mike Shula, didn't. Back in 2003, in his first appearance at SEC Media Days, Shula authored what was generally viewed as a poor performance, appearing nervous and unsure of himself. When he needed to use the bathroom, a cameraman followed him inside, capturing the moment for posterity. Saban, ever the planner, ever the master of control, didn't put himself in such a vulnerable position. When he needed to go, he put two security guards outside the door, preventing media from joining him (did his security do a sweep of the bathroom before the national-title winning coach entered?). That fact that writers like me are even reporting this underscores how the SEC Media Days have become the theater of the absurd. The good news: Fall camps are only weeks away from opening.
Miami's ongoing NCAA investigation could include potential violations from Al Golden's staff, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. After breaking open the Nevin Shapiro scandal a year ago, Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson is reporting that former equipment manager - and right hand man of the convicted Ponzi schemer - Sean "Pee Wee" Allen was used by Golden's staff "to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players."
NCAA rules stipulate that anyone who improperly "assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families" triggers the association's booster clause under bylaw 13.02.14. Allen said in federal testimony in connection with Shapiro's bankruptcy case that he provided improper benefits to players as far back as the mid-2000s. The NCAA's rules also state that equipment managers such as Allen cannot engage in recruiting calls or assist in off-campus recruiting unless they are designated and counted as an assistant coach under Bylaw 11.7. If Golden knew that Allen was impermissibly recruiting for the Hurricanes during Golden's tenure, it would contradict the message the Miami coach has sent repeatedly in recent months: That his staff was cleaning up problems from the Shapiro era – not taking part in them. As Golden framed it for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in a Feb. 1, 2012, story, "We weren't responsible for [the problems], but we are responsible enough to fix it." But according to Allen's federal testimony and the former Hurricanes staffer, Allen's recruiting infractions occurred almost immediately after Golden's tenure began and took place with the participation of at least two other former or current coaches – former assistant Aubrey Hill, who left Miami's staff three weeks into Golden's tenure, and current assistant coach Micheal Barrow.