"Outland"ish Goals May Keep McNeill Around

Auburn junior offensive tackle Marcus McNeill talks about the decision to remain in school or try his hand in the NFL.

Auburn, Ala.-—Following one of the best seasons ever for an Auburn offensive tackle in which he earned All-SEC and All-American honors, mammoth junior Marcus McNeill has a tough decision to make in the coming weeks. Should be enter the NFL Draft and likely be one of the first five offensive tackles taken or return for his senior season at Auburn.

The decision is one that would not have been possible for McNeill at this time last season because of concerns over his back and problems with that in the past. This season he hasn't experienced any pain or discomfort with the condition and hasn't missed one practice all year. The 6-9, 330 McNeill says that he's going to weigh the pros and cons heavily before making his decision.

"I'm not trying to jump the gun too soon," McNeill says. "I want to make sure my body is ready and I'm ready mentally and every other aspect of my football playing ability is ready before I make that leap into the NFL. I'm going to continue praying about it and hope to get a decision real soon. I don't want to leave these coaches hanging because if I am leaving they need to recruit more offensive tackles in my place. I'm not trying to do anything devastating to the program because I love Auburn.

"You could say right now I'm leaning towards staying because I don't know where I stand in the NFL," he adds. "I know I had an all right season this year. That's all I'm going off of. I don't know how scouts look at me or what teams need a tackle. When I get all that research done and (find out) what my worth is in the draft that might boost my leaving a little bit more or it might take it down some."

Marcus McNeill

A big supporter of the coaching staff and Coach Hugh Nall, McNeill says one of his main concerns is not leaving the Tigers high and dry should he opt for the NFL. Because of that he says he wants to make the best decision he can as soon as possible.

"I really want to have a good decision going into the bowl game so that if they do need to recruit more players that's going to be right in the heart of recruiting season in the first of January," McNeill says. "That could let them go ahead and get that set up. That gives me time to sit down and get back with my family. I haven't seen my family and sat down and talked to them yet or picked their brains about it and what they think I should do. They're going to be a very instrumental part of the process and God of course is going to be a part of the decision-making. I'm just trying to feel my way into a place I've never been before."

McNeill says that he talks with former Auburn and San Francisco 49er standout Steve Wallace regularly on the phone and uses him for guidance with his game and his future. In addition to Wallace's input, McNeill will also submit his case to the NFL and get a draft prediction from the league. Using several of those sources, McNeill hopes to get a firm feel for his draft status before making his final decision.

"I actually wanted to get up here last week, but finals kind of postponed that," McNeill says. "I wanted to fill out the paperwork (for the NFL), but I'll try to get it out tomorrow. It takes a couple of weeks to get it back, but when I find out that will play a very big role on whether I want to stay or go. The ultimate decision is going to come down to weighing the pros and cons. What are the negatives if I stay and what are the positives. Whichever one wins, that's probably the one that gets my decision.

"Right now I'm not trying to go anywhere, but I'm not crazy," McNeill says. "If something comes back and says I have a tremendous chance of going (early), you don't get this opportunity all the time. I have to be smart about the decision. I'm not going to try to trick anybody or play with the coaches' emotions or anything like that. As soon as I make a decision I'm going to let everybody know then it will be over with.

"If there is a chance for me to be in New York (for the NFL Draft) then I would probably go, but there are a lot of great players out there," he adds. "There's a chance I'm not going to be in that Top 10 or Top 15. I've got a lot of goals I want to accomplish that I didn't accomplish this year. I want to be a contender for the Outland Trophy and actually win it. I want to see my head on the side of the stadium. I'm not trying to be outlandish, but I have tremendous goals and they couldn't be reached if I leave. At the same time, it was a main goal to make it to the NFL one day. Whatever decision I make I'm pretty sure everybody is going to be behind me from my family. My coaching staff has been very supportive. Coach Nall has been very supportive of me. Hopefully I can do nothing but make the best decision."

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