ORLANDO, Fla. — Family has been a big part of Miami’s appeal to Evan Neal. His mother is a Hurricanes fan and accompanied him to Hard Rock Stadium for a game visit in November. Neal is originally from Okeechobee, Fla., (130 miles from the school) so Miami has always been sort of a hometown team for the 4-star offensive guard.
The Hurricanes understand the family appeal and it’s the crux of offensive line coach Stacy Searels recruitment. If Neal winds up in Coral Gables, Fla., Miami’s strategy will be a big reason why.
“[Searels] wants me to be a Hurricane and, I ain’t going to lie, Miami is doing the best job of recruiting my parents, as well,” Neal said during media day for the Future 50 at the Under Armour All-America Game. “You can’t get me without getting my parents and they’re doing the best job at that right now.”
It might be the reason the Hurricanes are always the first team the junior from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., mentions whenever he’s asked about his top choices. Georgia and Alabama seem like serious suitors, too, but Miami has found away to separate itself a bit.
“Writing my mom letters, they’re just doing the best,” Neal told DieHards. “They really want me to be a ‘Cane and it shows. I get a text from Coach Richt every week. They’re doing the best right now.”
Neal has been a fixture on IMG’s line for the past few seasons, first as a guard and now as a tackle. Although he’s ranked as the No. 5 offensive guard in the Class of 2019 by the 247Sports composite rankings, Neal said most schools are now talking to him about playing tackle. Neal spent his season at left tackle for the Ascenders, who finished the year ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
The position change could make him an even bigger priority than he already was for the Hurricanes. Neal said he most recently measured in at 6-foot-7 and 375 pounds, so he has the size to play outside in college. Landing top-tier tackles has been one of the few recruiting issues for Miami during coach Mark Richt’s tenure. Neal could be a solution.
“I feel like it was the best move I’ve made this year,” Neal said. “Tackle just feels more natural to me.”
And the Hurricanes aren’t alone in envisioning Neal as an exterior lineman. The Bulldogs, who seem to be running No. 2 for the offensive lineman, also see Neal as a tackle.
Top-100 recruit and IMG Academy OL Evan Neal (@E_Neal73) is used to being the center of attention at 6-foot-7.
Both national championship competitors are among those strongly in contention for his commitment. pic.twitter.com/GafYMGImvT
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) January 3, 2018
Miami was also one of the few schools to host Neal for a game visit when he attended the Hurricanes’ home finale against Virginia. Even for a game against an unranked team, Miami’s game day environment blew him away.
“It was crazy. Loudest game I’ve ever been to,” Neal said. “Mom grew up a Hurricanes fan, so it wasn’t like new to her, but I’m sure it impressed her, as well.”
Neal doesn’t officially have a timeline for his recruitment, but he thinks he’ll take most of his official visits during the spring and then commit during the summer. Neal plans to early enroll and with IMG’s schedule typically full of Saturday games it can make in-season visits tough.
“I might just take my official visits in the spring,” Neal said. “I’m still kind of thinking whether I should take them in the fall or the spring because in the spring I’ll have more time with the coaches. It won’t be as hectic.
“I’m still kind of taking it slow right now, so I’ve still got time to think about it.”